Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rays’ Franco charged with sexual abuse in D.R.

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against a minor in the Dominican Republic.

Puerto Plata District Office Prosecutor Kelmin Duncan and the spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, Nairobi Viloria, told ESPN’s Juan Recio that they presented the formal accusation against Franco on Tuesday, four days after the initial deadline expired July 5.

Franco has been under investigation since July 10, 2023, when a complaint was filed against him for allegedly having had sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl.

Franco was initially accused by Dominican prosecutors of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering on Jan. 3; the mother of the girl, who was 14 when the alleged relationship began in December 2022, faced the same charge. Six days later, after further review of the evidence, a judge in the Dominican Republic instead accused Franco of a lesser charge of sexual and psychological abuse.

In a nearly 600-page document obtained by ESPN and presented to the judge at a hearing in January, prosecutors shared the evidence they have found in their investigation into Franco. The file includes transcripts of interviews with the girl and her relatives and messages between Franco and the girl.

Jay Reisinger, Franco’s United States-based lawyer, told The Associated Press that he could not comment because Franco had not received formal notification of any charges.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association recently extended Franco’s administrative leave through July 14, a procedural move while the Dominican authorities worked on the criminal case.

MLB launched a separate investigation into Franco that is not expected to be completed until after his criminal case is resolved.

Franco, 23, agreed to an 11-year, $182 million contract extension in November 2021, just 70 games into his major league career.

Information from ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Alden Gonzalez was used in this report.

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