Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – A judge has dismissed money laundering and sexual exploitation charges against Wander Franco, but the Tampa Bay Rays shortstop may still face counts of sexual and psychological abuse and abduction. The charges stem from an alleged inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old.
Franco, 22, was released from jail in the Dominican Republic on Monday after posting a financial guarantee of $34,000. This guarantee ensures that he will make monthly visits to the court for the next six months.
If found guilty of the accusation of sexual abuse of a minor, Franco could face two to five years in prison. However, he has not yet been formally charged with a crime. Nevertheless, his return to the United States may prove challenging due to the ongoing investigation and credible allegations.
Javad Khazaeli, a former prosecutor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explained that it will be difficult for Franco to obtain a visa without resolution of the allegations against him. The U.S. government is likely to defer to the ongoing law enforcement prosecution.
The Rays, Franco’s attorney, and the Major League Baseball Players Association declined to comment on the recent developments. Franco currently holds a special five-year visa for professional athletes to perform in the United States. However, his absence from work during the 2023 season could make it challenging for him to prove the need to be in the U.S.
The U.S. government has the authority to deny admission to a foreign citizen if there are reasonable grounds. If denied entry, Franco could potentially lose millions of dollars, as he would be unable to report for spring training or the season opener.
Following the allegations in August, Franco was placed on administrative leave under the MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Policy. This allowed the league and Dominican authorities to conduct their respective investigations.
While authorities have six months to formally charge Franco, the mother of the minor still faces the original accusations. Regardless of whether he is charged or convicted, MLB has the right to suspend Franco without pay.
Franco, who signed an 11-year deal worth $182 million in 2021, was elected to his first All-Star team last season. However, the Rays have made plans to proceed without him, removing advertising and merchandise featuring Franco from Tropicana Field in August. They have also acquired shortstop Jose Caballero as insurance against Franco’s potential inability to play.
In conclusion, Wander Franco, the Tampa Bay Rays shortstop, has had charges of money laundering and sexual exploitation of a minor dismissed by a judge. However, he may still face charges of sexual and psychological abuse and abduction. Franco’s return to the United States may be hindered by ongoing investigations, and he could potentially lose millions of dollars if denied entry. MLB has the authority to suspend him without pay, regardless of whether he is charged or convicted. The Rays have made arrangements to proceed without him, including acquiring another shortstop.