(CNN)Brazilian authorities say at least one of the American Olympic swimmers involved in a stranger-by-the-minute incident in Rio has now confirmed the account that a surveillance video appears to show: four swimmers committing acts of vandalism at a gas station when confronted by security guards
That’s the closest thing we have to clarity (and it’s not much) in the development of a murky tale that began Sunday night in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood.
First, the swimmers said they were stopped in a taxi by fake police and robbed at gunpoint. But that story has changed continually since. Now we learn they may have vandalized a gas station and given false statements to the Rio de Janerio police.
One version of the story suggests someone may have forced the Olympians at gunpoint to hand over cash for the property damage … which actually still sounds a lot like a robbery. But at minimum, it seems the swimmers’ version of the story is rife with inconsistencies. And, even with the new emerging videos of the incident, there are still a lot of questions about what actually happened.
Even if Lochte were charged with a crime on that list, there’s an additional requirement: the crime must be punishable in both Brazil and the United States by imprisonment for more than one year. In Brazil, false communication of a crime carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail.
In the United States, many federal crimes are also punishable by more than a year, including making a false statement to government agents. That can get you up to five years. At least initially, the relative punishment terms satisfy the “dual criminality” standard of the treaty.
Still, it’s not likely that the United States will extradite Lochte to Brazil.
Second, well, countries ultimately only honor extradition treaties if they feel like it. Especially superpowers. In fact, extradition treaties are actually a lot like the Olympics themselves. As spectators, we tend to automatically side with our own country. We’re reluctant to send “our” American boys to face Brazilian justice even if they did flat-out lie to the Brazilian police.
To our biased, Pollyanna minds, it’s just some wholesome kids on an innocent night out, who maybe mixed up a few details to police with a language barrier. You see? There’s a criminal defense attorney in all of usespecially when it comes to our “own” children.
It’s a natural instinct to side with our own country and against othersit’s why an average 27 million viewers per night are cheering on complete strangers because they have a familiar flag stitched to their uniforms.
But ultimately, there is a potential international conflict here: The State Department could deny Brazil’s request for Lochte, but it will be awkward when State simultaneously asks Brazil to “pretty please” return the other American swimmers still in Brazil.
Brazilian officials really have two distinct problems with the Americans’ conduct here. First, the alleged boorish behavior and criminal vandalism. Second, the swimmers may have given false reports another crime to Rio law enforcement. There’s a third issue that Rio officials probably won’t admit. Fake robbery is embarrassing for the city.
Bottom line: Rio’s authorities want confirmation that Rio is actually one robbery safer than we all thought it was before. As for all the other actual robberies in Rio, well, those really happen. Just subtract one robbery from the final tally for 2016. As for that one “robbery,” don’t blame it on Rio.