Rays’ Wander Franco formally charged by Dominican prosecutors: reports

PETERSBURG — Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic have formally charged Rays defenseman Wander Franco with sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor, according to multiple reports late Tuesday night.

Prosecutors have been working toward a July 5 deadline to file formal charges for six months. When they didn’t file by Friday, Dominican legal process gave them another 10 days from the time they were notified by the court.

It happened Tuesday in Puerto Plata, a spokeswoman for the Nairobi Attorney General’s Office, Viloria told ESPN’s Juan Arturo Recio and the Associated Press.

No further details were provided Tuesday, and it was not clear what punishment Franco could face if found guilty.

According to ESPN, the judge will now evaluate the evidence presented, as well as the “relevance or otherwise of the accusation” made by authorities, in deciding whether to send the case to a “merited trial.”

Rays shortstop Wander Franco, center, is escorted by police to a courthouse in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, in January. Dominican prosecutors formally charged Franco Tuesday with sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor. ( RICARDO HERNANDEZ | AP )

Franco has been under investigation by Dominican authorities since social media posts first appeared on August 13 alleging he had an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

Prosecutors said they received several complaints before the investigation focused on the relationship, which began in December 2022, when Franco was 21 and the girl was 14.

In January, they presented a nearly 600-page report to a judge that included not only details of the alleged sexual relationship but also allegations that Franco paid the girl’s mother to agree to continue. The mother was also included in Tuesday’s motion, the Associated Press reported.

In May, an appeals court ruled that Franco no longer had to report to Dominican authorities every month, a requirement that was in place when he was released from prison in January. He was arrested and detained for a week after failing to respond to a request to speak with prosecutors. Franco’s request to have the $33,000 bail he posted to be released was denied.

Franco, 23, has spent most of the time since the incident was reported on administrative leave, a nondisciplinary status created by Major League Baseball and the players’ union for players under investigation. He is still receiving his $2 million salary. His current term runs through July 14, with another extension possible depending on how the situation develops.

Once Franco’s legal status in the Dominican Republic is determined, Major League Baseball will likely conduct its own investigation, including an interview with Franco, and could impose disciplinary sanctions against him, such as suspension.

Rays representatives, as they have done throughout the trial, have not commented on Tuesday’s events.

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