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Culpepper in court seeking dismissal

MINNEAPOLIS (March 22, 2006) -- Former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper testified March 22 that he spent his entire time shooting dice during a boat party last fall and rejected offers from lingerie-clad dancers.

Culpepper, one of four players charged with misdemeanor lewd conduct, said he and friends gathered in a circle, betting $20 a throw playing craps.

"Nobody who was shooting dice wanted to get a dance," Culpepper said. He said he was a designated driver for the evening.

Culpepper, who was traded to the Miami Dolphins on March 14, and former teammate Moe Williams were in Hennepin County District Court seeking to have the charges dismissed. Two other Vikings, cornerback Fred Smoot and tackle Bryant McKinnie, weren't part of the hearing.

The October cruise on suburban Lake Minnetonka was swiftly dubbed "Love Boat" after employees of a charter boat company came forward with accusations of lewd behavior, and the Vikings became a target of national ridicule.

Some of Williams' testimony reinforced crew members' accusations. He described a woman pouring drinks at a bar with her head down, shielding her eyes to avoid seeing naked dancers around her. Williams said he suggested to the woman that the lights be turned down so she didn't have to see what was going on.

Williams testified that he got a lap dance, but said he was holding a drink in one hand, a bag of his belongings in the other. He said he never touched the woman's breast, as prosecutors say.

Culpepper's attorney, Earl Gray, argued that even if the two players did get lap dances, it wasn't a crime because such dances happen regularly in Minneapolis.

Culpepper and Williams also contend that race played a factor in the decision to charge them. Both players are black. They say sheriff's investigators have evidence that a boat captain and another man -- both white -- engaged in indecent conduct but were not charged. Smoot and McKinnie, also black, did not ask for dismissal on those grounds.

Prosecutor Steven Tallen has denied that race played a role. He has accused defense lawyers of using race to cloud the real issues. Testimony on that question was expected later in the day.

Culpepper and Williams are accused of touching a naked woman during lap dances; McKinnie and Smoot are accused of other alleged lewd acts. They've all pleaded not guilty. Trials for the four are set for April and May.

Culpepper was traded this month for a second-round pick, days after he requested to be traded or released.

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