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Rays shortstop Wander Franco faces lesser charge as judge analyzes evidence in ongoing probe

By MARTÍN ADAMES ALCÁNTARA
Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Wander Franco is facing a lesser charge after a judge in the Dominican Republic analyzed evidence that alleges the Tampa Bay Rays shortstop had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl and paid her mother thousands of dollars for her consent.

Originally accused of commercial and sexual exploitation and money laundering — charges that carry up to 30 years, 10 years and 20 years of prison respectively — Franco now stands accused instead of sexual and psychological abuse, according to a judge’s resolution that The Associated Press obtained on Tuesday.

Franco has not been formally accused, but if found guilty on the new charge, he could face between two to five years in prison.

Dominican law allows authorities to detain a suspect while prosecutors gather evidence to support their accusations, with a judge later determining whether there is sufficient evidence for charges to be formally filed and the case to move forward.

In his decision, Judge Romaldy Marcelino observed that prosecutors gave the case against Franco a different and more serious treatment because “the accused is a professional MLB player,” he said, referring to Major League Baseball. He didn’t elaborate.

The judge also determined that the money Franco is accused of giving the teen’s mother cannot be considered payment for the girl’s alleged services since the mother requested money after finding out about their relationship, which lasted four months, according to evidence collected by prosecutors.

The girl’s 35-year-old mother also is charged in the case and remains under house arrest. The original charges of money laundering still stand against her. The AP is not naming the woman in order to preserve her daughter’s privacy.

Franco was conditionally released Monday from a jail in the northern province of Puerto Plata after being detained for a week. He was ordered to pay 2 million Dominican pesos ($34,000) as a type of deposit and is required to meet with authorities once a month in the Dominican Republic as the investigation continues.

Franco was having an All-Star season before being sidelined in August, when Dominican authorities began investigating claims he had been in a relationship with a minor. Major League Baseball launched its own investigation, placing Franco on the restricted list on Aug. 14 before moving him to administrative leave on Aug. 22. Both investigations are ongoing.

Franco signed a $182 million, 11-year contract in 2021. His salary last year and this year is $2 million per season.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

Article Topic Follows: ap-national-news

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