Thursday, December 15, 2005
Four Vikings charged in boat party scandal
MINNEAPOLIS -- The crew's first hint that this wasn't an
ordinary charter boat cruise was a guest list loaded with Minnesota
Vikings. The second was when female passengers went below and
started taking their clothes off.
On Thursday, the Vikings' "love boat" scandal -- which made the
then-struggling team the butt of jokes on late-night TV -- washed
ashore in court, with misdemeanor charges against quarterback
Daunte Culpepper and three other players.
Culpepper, known for his clean-cut image and currently out on
injured reserve, was charged with three counts -- indecent conduct,
disorderly conduct and lewd or lascivious conduct -- as were
teammates Bryant McKinnie, Fred Smoot and Moe Williams.
The boat-party charges quickly became the buzz on sports-talk
radio, and hosts at KFAN-AM and other stations delighted in playing
"The Love Boat" TV show theme over and over.
Authorities said they might have charged others if they had been
able to identify them.
"The night of the incident, there was no shortage of
inappropriate behavior on both boats," Hennepin County Sheriff Pat
If convicted, each player faces up to a maximum of 90 days in
jail and a $1,000 fine on each count. A court date for the players
was set for Jan. 5.
Prosecutor Steve Tallen charged the players based on an
investigation by McGowan's office, which reviewed allegations of
lewd and drunken behavior aboard a floating party Oct. 6 that
involved some Vikings players.
Crew members complained that some people took off their clothes
and engaged in public sex acts during the cruise, according to
Stephen Doyle, an attorney representing the boat owners, Al &
Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises in Mound.
On Thursday, Doyle said, "It would be inappropriate for me to
comment on the pending charges. Let's give these men their day in
court and presume they're innocent, and let the system work as it
The crew members were able to identify 17 Vikings among about 90
people on the two boats; McGowan said authorities ultimately
identified about 30 Vikings aboard.
According to the criminal complaints:
After the boats left the dock, crew members noticed many female
passengers going to a lower restroom area and emerging in scant
Culpepper got a lap dance from a naked woman in one boat's bar
area, and put his hands on her buttocks. McKinnie placed a woman on
a bar in the lounge area and performed oral sex; later, he and
three other unidentified men received oral sex from four women
while sitting in deck chairs.
Smoot used a sex toy on two women on the floor in the lounge
area, and Williams got a lap dance from a topless dancer and placed
his hands on her breasts.
Smoot and defensive end Lance Johnstone arranged the charter as
an annual team party put on by rookie players for the veterans,
according to court papers.
Smoot declined comment in the team's locker room before
practice. Both Culpepper and Williams are on injured reserve and in
rehabilitation on their own, away from the team. McKinnie wasn't
seen in the locker room.
Vikings coach Mike Tice was careful with his reaction.
"According to NFL rules and union contracts, there is a large
difference between allegations and charges and convictions," Tice
said. "So until at any point there is a conviction of some type,
if there is, I have no action to take and nothing to say."
After that, Tice threatened to stop talking to reporters if
anyone asked more questions about the allegations.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was unavailable for comment. Kevin
Warren, an attorney for the team, said the allegations were "very
disturbing" and said Wilf wouldn't allow playoff considerations to
affect suspensions if he thought they were called for.
"He will do the right and ethical and honorable thing ... if
that's two weeks from now or six months from now," Warren said.
Reports that some women at the party were paid to come from
outside Minnesota had raised the possibility of federal charges,
but U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said Thursday that no such
charges would be brought. Heffelfinger cited insufficient evidence.
That decision, along with sheriff's decision to send the case to
Tallen's office, meant any charges would be minor. Tallen is the
prosecuting attorney for the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District,
which handles nonfelony crimes committed on the big lake just west
The boat scandal hit the Vikings when they were already reeling,
off to a 1-3 start, and made them the object of national ridicule
on late-night TV and cable sports channels. Wilf, who had been
seeking state help for a new stadium, responded forcefully,
apologizing to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other state officials and
instituting a new code of conduct.
The team has since recovered on the field and, with quarterback
Brad Johnson replacing the injured Culpepper, ran off six straight
wins to become a playoff contender at 8-5.
Running back Michael Bennett said he didn't think the charges
would hurt the team heading into Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.
"Everybody's upbeat," he said. "We have the distraction
today, but again we've dealt with it pretty well.
Receiver Marcus Robinson, asked if he was worried the whole team
would be cast in a negative light, sounded philosophical.
"That's what happens in football. They label all football
players the same, all athletes the same. That's just a part of our
job right now. You've got to know who you are as an individual and
worry about what you can control."
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report from
Eden Prairie, Minn.