Culpepper raises race issue in boat party charges


Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2006
Reaction score
Culpepper raises race issue in boat party charges
Attorneys for Vikings players allege discrimination influenced the charges. A prosecutor denies it.
David Shaffer and David Chanen, Star Tribune

Attorneys for Minnesota Vikings players Daunte Culpepper and Moe Williams accused a prosecutor Wednesday of selectively charging black men and ignoring possible crimes by two white men in the boat party sex case.
A motion, served on prosecutor Steven Tallen, asks for dismissal of charges against the two players because of racial discrimination. Tallen denied race played any role in the decision to charge.

Culpepper and Williams are among the four players who face trial on misdemeanor charges of indecent conduct and lewdness on two cruise boats last October on Lake Minnetonka. About 90 people, including many Vikings players, were guests.

The party allegedly featured heavy drinking and women giving lap dances and having sex.

The motion papers allege that Hennepin County sheriff's investigators have evidence that the captain of one boat touched a woman's exposed breast with his mouth while he piloted the boat. This happened immediately after the manager of a strip club paid the woman and also touched her with his mouth, according to the motion papers.

Both of those men are white. Because they have not been named in public documents and were not charged, the Star Tribune is not naming them.

The boat captain declined to comment and the club manager said through an attorney that he has cooperated with investigators and did nothing to "directly break any laws."

Tallen, who prosecutes misdemeanor cases for the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, accused defense lawyers of playing "the race card" to cloud the real issues.

Different circumstances

Stephen Doyle, an attorney representing Al & Alma's Restaurant and Cruises, also expressed disappointment that anyone thought race was a consideration. The captain is related to the owners of Al & Alma's.

"I haven't seen any evidence of this," said Doyle, who declined to comment on the pending legal matters. "I'm enormously sensitive to it. I'm sorry this issue is being raised."

Tallen said the circumstances of the acts of the captain and the club manager differ from those of the football players. Only the manager, the boat captain and the woman were present, and the two men willingly participated in the contact with her, Tallen said.

In contrast, all of the players had lap dances or other sexual encounters in front of unwilling crew members, he said.

Can the captain be charged?

The captain told investigators about the incident with the woman, according to an investigative report attached to the motion. Under law, "you can't convict someone solely on their own confession," Tallen said. "It would be unethical to try to do that," he said. The woman was never identified, he added.

Similarly, Tallen said, no charges could be brought against the club manager over his alleged payment to the woman because "you can't convict a co-conspirator solely on the word of the other conspirator." Besides, he said, the crime suggested by the defense motion -- promoting prostitution -- is a felony, which would be handled by the Hennepin County attorney's office. That office has said the case wasn't presented for felony charges.

Earl Gray, a St. Paul attorney who represents Culpepper, said the complaints by crew members that naked women were running around offers enough corroboration of the captain's confession.

"There is substantially more evidence to charge them (the two white men) than my client," said Gray, who was joined in the motion by Williams' attorney, Joseph Friedberg.

Quarterback Culpepper, who was sidelined with a knee injury, and running back Williams are accused of getting lap dances during the party. Two other players, Fred Smoot and Bryant McKinnie, also are facing misdemeanor charges over other alleged lewd acts on the boat, but they did not join in the motion for dismissal. Trials are set for April and May.

A sheriff's office report filed with the motion identified "suspects" in the boat party misconduct -- the four players, the captain and the strip club manager.

Captain regrets role

In an interview with a sheriff's detective last fall, the captain said the club manager approached him with a woman, and that he got "caught up in the moment, peer pressure," an investigative report said. The captain told the detective that he regretted the act.

In a separate interview with a detective, the club manager said he did not see any illegal activity or sex acts on the boat. An investigative report said the club manager asserted that he knew about one of the crew members doing something inappropriate. The detective replied that he already knew that one of the boat captains had been involved in a "bit of sexual touching" while the manager was present. The manager said that was the same incident, but the detective cut short the interview because he didn't believe some of the manager's other answers.

Not a frivolous motion

Prof. Joseph Daly of Hamline Law School in St. Paul, said the club manager's admission that he saw sexual acts by the boat captain buttresses the captain's confession, and could technically be enough to bring a charge. But the judge still will be confronted with whether the charge against the black players was premised on race, he added.

"It is not a frivolous motion -- it is a solid motion," Daly said. "They could very well win on this basis."
This thread has been closed due to inactivity. You can create a new thread to discuss this topic.