MINNEAPOLIS (April 4, 2006) -- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper was cleared of misdemeanor charges stemming from a boat-party sex scandal.
A judge ruled there wasn't probable cause to determine a crime was committed by Culpepper, one of four Minnesota Vikings accused of misdemeanor lewd conduct during the cruise last fall on a suburban lake. Culpepper has since been traded to the Miami Dolphins.
Culpepper issued a statement through the Dolphins saying he was "delighted" at the ruling.
"I was confident when the legal process began that the truth would come out, and I am glad that my innocence has been proven," he said.
Culpepper testified last month that he merely played dice on the cruise. That, plus backing testimony from a friend, was enough to convince a judge to toss out the charges.
"Since no evidence was presented to refute this testimony, this Court is compelled to find" lack of probable cause, Hennepin County District Judge Kevin Burke ruled.
"I greatly appreciate Judge Burke's sensitivity to the damage that can be done to a person's reputation when they are wrongly charged," Culpepper said.
His attorney, Earl Gray, said, "It vindicates him from being involved in any sexual misconduct on the boat."
Prosecutor Steve Tallen said he thought Burke had "applied things wrong," but said he hadn't had time to fully digest the ruling. He said it was possible he might re-file the case.
Burke denied a motion to dismiss charges against running back Moe Williams. His trial is scheduled for April 18.
The other two players charged, cornerback Fred Smoot and tackle Bryant McKinnie, weren't part of the ruling. Their next hearings were scheduled for April 6.
Williams' attorney, Joe Friedberg, said he was disappointed.
"I disagree with him, but that's what makes horse racing," Friedberg said.
Both Culpepper and Williams had denied any improper conduct in a hearing before Burke last month. Culpepper, who was accused of touching a dancer's buttocks, testified that he spent the cruise playing a dice game in the back of a boat and rejected offers from several women.
Williams, accused of touching a dancer's breast, testified that a woman danced near him but he never touched her.
In explaining his ruling, Burke wrote Culpepper's version of events would clear him if true, and since the prosecutor offered nothing to rebut it, he found no probable cause that a crime was committed.
The difference with Williams, the judge wrote, was that his story wouldn't necessarily exonerate him because a crew member might have seen the dance and been offended.
The boat-party scandal was the lowest point in a dismal season for the Vikings, who lost Culpepper to a serious knee injury soon afterward. After his relationship with the team and new coach Brad Childress went bad in the offseason, he was traded to Miami last month for a second-round pick.
All four players faced identical charges of indecent conduct, disorderly conduct and lewd or lascivious conduct. Conviction on a single misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
The Associated Press News Service
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