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Four Vikings charged in boat party scandal

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Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper and three teammates have been charged with misdemeanor crimes in connection with a bawdy boat party in October. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Four Minnesota Vikings players have been charged with misdemeanor offenses stemming from a raucous October boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka. Daunte Culpepper, Fred Smoot, Bryant McKinnie and Moe Williams were each charged with indecent conduct, disorderly conduct and lewd or lascivious conduct. Team officials say they take the charges very seriously and will consider disciplinary action after the legal process runs its course.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Hennepin County Sheriff Pat McGowan says witnesses identified 30 Vikings players as being among the 90 passengers who were on the two chartered boats on Lake Minnetonka in October.

McGowan says he believes there were other passengers who violated statutes that forbid public sexual activity and nudity. However so far eyewitnesses could only identify Culpepper, McKinney, Smoot and Williams. He says the investigation is ongoing and could result in more charges. But right now, the cases are built soley on eyewitness accounts.

"Based on the subpoenas and search warrants we have not been able to obtain any physical evidence. Nor is there any indication that there were any pictures taken," he said.

Here's what the eyewitnesses reported to investigators: quarterback Daunte Culpepper and running back Moe Williams received lap dances from naked women and fondled them.

Starting offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie is charged with giving and receiving oral sex from an unidentified woman. And Fred Smoot, who is believed to have chartered the boat with another player, was charged with using a sex toy on two unclothed women. The witnesses say all the acts happened in plain view of other passengers.

McGowan says he doesn't know if the women were prostitutes. Nor does he know who the women are. And McGowan says none of the players named in the charges has spoken to investigators.

"Law enforcement or prosecutors cannot compel people to talk with them. And people can choose to exercise their constitutional rights not to talk with us. And like I said, based on information we have, to date, no one has been able to identify the females," McGowan 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.

Some of the Vikings players named in the charges have obtained legal counsel and were not available to comment. Hennepin County prosecutor Steve Tallen says each charge carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 or 90 days in jail.

"In this county, at least, it's very unusual for people to go to jail on a first offense misdemeanor. But it is a function of the level of outrage, I guess if you will that the particular judge might have if there's a plea or a finding of guilty after a trial," according to Tallen.

Vikings team officials say they take the charges very seriously. However they say they will wait until the legal process is done before they consider any disciplinary action.

Team owner Zygi Wilf recently instituted a code of conduct for members of the Vikings organization as well as the team, shortly after news of the boat cruise allegations became public.

The Vikings are making a run for the playoffs and face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at the Metrodome.