(Santo Domingo) The seriousness of charges against Wander Franco has been reduced after a Dominican judge reviewed evidence alleging the Tampa Bay Rays shortstop had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl and paid her mother thousands of dollars to obtain her consent.
First accused of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering – charges that could carry prison sentences of up to 30 years, 10 years and 20 years, respectively – Franco is now accused of sexual assault and psychological abuse, according to the judge’s decision, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Franco is still not formally charged, but if convicted of the new charges, then he could face a prison sentence of two to five years.
In his verdict, Judge Romaldy Marcelino noted that prosecutors had handled the case against Franco with greater severity because “the defendant is a professional baseball player,” he said, referring to the Major Leagues . He did not want to specify further.
The judge also determined that the amount of money that Franco allegedly paid to the teenager’s mother cannot be considered payment for his alleged services since the mother demanded payment after becoming aware of their relationship, which s He was prosecuted for four months, according to evidence collected by prosecutors.
The teenager’s mother, who is 35 years old, is also accused in this case and remains under house arrest. The money laundering charges still weigh against her. The AP declined to release the mother’s identity to protect the teen’s identity.
Franco was provisionally released on Monday from a detention center in Puerto Plata province, after being imprisoned there for a week. He was ordered to post US$34,000 bail and is required to meet with the country’s authorities once a month for the duration of the investigation.