MINNEAPOLIS (Dec. 15, 2005) -- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and three Minnesota Vikings teammates were charged with indecent, lewd and disorderly conduct for participating in a bawdy boat party that drew national attention.
Culpepper, currently on injured reserve, Bryant McKinnie, Fred Smoot and Moe Williams each were charged with three misdemeanors for their behavior aboard a boat on Lake Minnetonka, according to court papers.
If convicted, each player faces up to a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count.
"The night of the incident, there was no shortage of inappropriate behavior on both boats," Hennepin County Sheriff Pat McGowan said.
Prosecutor Steve Tallen charged the players based on an investigation by McGowan's office, which reviewed allegations of lewd and drunken behavior aboard two craft chartered for the outing on Oct. 6.
Crew members complained that some people took off their clothes and engaged in public sex acts during the cruise, according to Stephen Doyle, an attorney representing the boats' owners, Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises in Mound, Minn.
Crew members were able to identify 17 Vikings among about 90 people on the two boats; McGowan said authorities ultimately identified about 30 Vikings.
The criminal complaints said that after the boats left the dock, crew members noticed many female passengers going to a lower restroom area and emerging in scant clothing.
Smoot and defensive end Lance Johnstone arranged the charter, according to court papers.
Smoot declined comment in the team's locker room before practice. Culpepper and Williams, also on injured reserve, are away from the team and undergoing rehabilitation. McKinnie wasn't seen in the locker room.
"According to NFL rules and union contracts, there is a large difference between allegations and charges and convictions," coach Mike Tice said. "So until at any point there is a conviction of some type, if there is, I have no action to take and nothing to say."
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was unavailable for comment. Kevin Warren, an attorney for the team, said the allegations were "very disturbing" and said Wilf wouldn't allow playoff considerations to affect suspensions if he thought they were called for.
"He will do the right and ethical and honorable thing ... if that's two weeks from now or six months from now," Warren 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.
A Jan. 5 court date was set for the players.
The boat scandal hit the Vikings when they were already reeling, off to a 1-3 start, and made them the object of national ridicule on late-night TV and cable sports channels. Wilf, who had been seeking state help for a new stadium, apologized to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and instituted a new code of conduct.
The team has since recovered on the field and, with quarterback Brad Johnson replacing the injured Culpepper, ran off six straight wins to become a playoff contender at 8-5.
Running back Michael Bennett said he didn't think the charges would hurt the team heading into their Week 15 game against Pittsburgh.
"Everybody's upbeat," he said. "We have the distraction today, but again we've dealt with it pretty well."
Asked if he was worried the whole team would be cast in a bad light, receiver Marcus Robinson said:
"That's what happens in football. They label all football players the same, all athletes the same. That's just a part of our job right now. You've got to know who you are as an individual and worry about what you can control."