Four Minnesota Vikings, including quarterback Daunte Culpepper, were charged today with misdemeanors alleging lewd or indecent conduct in connection with a party on Lake Minnetonka in October.
The other players charged were tackle Bryant McKinnie, running back Moe Williams and cornerback Fred Smoot, who was one of the organizers of the annual party put on by a first-year player from the team.
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger confirmed no players would face federal charges. Crew members from Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises said women who were paid to come to Minnesota from other states for the party were seen having sex with players.
All four players were charged with one count of indecent conduct, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. All charges are misdemeanors.
''There was no shortage of inappropriate behavior on both boats,'' said Hennepin County Sheriff Patrick McGowan in talking about the charges. He said that the investigation identified 30 Vikings among the approximately 90 people aboard the two boats.
Coach Mike Tice said, "We've been down this road with other players before. I'll just let you know, as it pertains to any punishment ... there is, according to NFL rules and union contracts, there is a large difference between allegations and charges and convictions. Until at any point there is a conviction of any type, I have no action to take and nothing to say."
The complaints gave this account of the allegations:
Culpepper got a lap dance from an unidentified, naked female in the bar area of a boat and that he placed his hands on the naked buttocks of the dancer.
Williams, in an area near the boat's downstairs bathrooms, received a lap dance from a bare-breasted dancer and touched her breast.
Smoot was accused of using a sex toy on two women in the presence of numerous guests.
Witnesses reported that they saw McKinnie "pick up a naked woman, place her on the bar in the lounge area, and commence to perform oral sex on the woman." At a different time in the evening, the witnesses said they saw "Mr. McKinnie along with three other unidentified males receiving oral sex from four women while the men were seated in deck chairs on the boat."
The maximum penalty on each charges is 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. Court appearances were set for the players on Jan. 5.
''None of the Vikings have chosen to talk to us,'' McGowan said.
Smoot said today, "I'm not talking about nothing."
Peter Wold, who represents another Vikings player who isn't charged, said his investigation found "nothing pointing to any of these four."
"The Vikings charged in the case are among the most recognizable players on the team and they also are among the highest paid," Wold said. "This is a shakedown."
McGowan said the case would have been investigated even if it had not involved the high-profile Minnesota Vikings, had someone brought a similar complaint. Then he asked the assembled media a question:
''If this didn't involve the players that it did, would you all be standing here today?'' McGowan asked.
Prosecutor Steve Tallen received a file from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office about two weeks ago. Employees of the boat company identified 17 players among the approximately 90 guests on the two boats chartered for the Oct. 6 party.
Stephen Doyle, the attorney representing Al & Alma's, said sex acts were performed in front of employees, and many of the employees were fearful for their safety. The boat captains decided to end the cruise early and turn around because of the activities.
Last month, Vikings officials questioned the accuracy of Doyle's portrayal about what happened on the boats and they have been critical of stories about the party done by local media.
An exotic dancer from Atlanta who said she was on one of the boats said in an interview with the Star Tribune that she saw two incidents of sexual activity on her boat, but not as much as has been described in some news accounts. The woman, who spoke to the newspaper on the condition that her name not be published, said she was paid $500 to attend a party thrown by first-year Vikings players.
On the boat, the woman said, she saw a couple who appeared to have just finished having sex in a bathroom and another couple on the upper deck who were undressed and engaged in intercourse.
She said that she didn't know if any Vikings were involved and that it was her understanding that an invitation to the party didn't include an expectation to have sex. At least a dozen other exotic dancers from Atlanta attended the party, she said, but she didn't know if they were paid.
"I wasn't flown up to be a prostitute," she said during an interview in Atlanta.
Boat employees of Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises had identified 17 Vikings players as being on the boats, but several have publicly denied that they were on board. Some players on the list allegedly participated in sex acts. The list also includes players who apologized for the behavior of some teammates and who tried to protect the charter boat employees.
Attorney Doyle has said cornerback Fred Smoot was one of the organizers, but Smoot has repeatedly denied it and has threatened legal action.
Others aboard the boats who engaged in conduct similar to those charged could not be identified, McGowan said.