Rays’ Franco formally charged with sexual abuse and exploitation of a minor

Rays’ Franco formally charged with sexual abuse and exploitation of a minor

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was formally charged Tuesday with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor, ESPN reported.

Dominican Republic prosecutors had until July 5 to file charges against Franco. However, Dominican law allows a judge to grant a 10-day extension for prosecutors and victims to present their closing arguments.

Franco has been under investigation by MLB and Dominican authorities since August 2023 over social media posts suggesting he had a relationship with a minor.

Shortly after the two investigations were launched, Franco agreed to be placed on MLB’s restricted list, which removed him from the Rays’ roster. The former All-Star has not played since.

Franco was subsequently placed on administrative leave by the league under its joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy with the players’ association. Administrative leave is not a disciplinary measure under league policy, and a player continues to be paid.

He remained there through the end of the season and, once the offseason was over, he returned on Opening Day on a deal through June 1.

On May 31, his administrative leave was extended through July 14 by MLB and the Players Association.

In December 2023, Franco received a bonus of more than $700,000 from MLB as part of the league’s pre-arbitration bonus pool. He also continued to receive his $2 million salary.

Franco also has a $2 million salary this season under an 11-year, $182 million contract he signed in November 2021. He will not be paid if he is suspended due to MLB’s investigation.

Franco was arrested on January 1 for failing to show up for an appointment with his prosecutor, but a Dominican judge ordered his conditional release four days later.

The judge said Wander could leave the Dominican Republic but had to return every month to meet with authorities.

In January, a judge also ruled that Franco would be charged with sexual and psychological abuse, rather than commercial and sexual exploitation and money laundering.

If convicted of the new charge, he faces between two and five years in prison.

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