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The decision of a judge to allow the supervised release of Wander Franco from the Tampa Bay Rays

At a court in the Dominican Republic, a judge on Friday ruled that Wander Franco, shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays, could be conditionally released while under investigation for allegedly having a brief relationship with a 14-year-old girl. It is alleged that he gave the girl’s mother a small car and thousands of dollars in exchange for her consent, as per court documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The judge’s ruling permits Franco to depart from the Dominican Republic, but he must return monthly to meet with authorities. Additionally, he has been directed to pay a deposit of 2 million Dominican pesos ($34,000) as the investigation progresses.

Although Franco did not address reporters directly after the hearing, during a brief exchange earlier in the day, he mentioned that “everything is in God’s hands.”

Supporters assembled outside the courthouse applauded when the ruling was announced and chanted “Boss! Boss!” in reference to Franco. His father, also named Wander Franco, proclaimed, “God is just.”

The 22-year-old All-Star is facing accusations of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering. The judge, Rumaldi Marcelino, had several options for his ruling Friday: release Franco on bond, temporarily detain him, restrict him from leaving the Dominican Republic, or require him to make periodic appearances until the investigation or a trial is concluded.

The 35-year-old mother of the girl is also facing the same charges as Franco. To protect her daughter’s privacy, the woman has not been named by the AP.

Despite being detained on Monday in Puerto Plata, Franco has not been formally charged with any crimes. The judge received a comprehensive 600-page document outlining the evidence gathered by prosecutors during a lengthy investigation.

Aside from confirming that Franco was “doing fine,” his legal team has refrained from providing further comments.

According to prosecutors, the investigation was initiated after they received an anonymous tip in July 2023 based on a media post alluding to the alleged relationship. The validity of the reported post has not been verified by the AP.

Authorities allege that Franco took the minor away from her home in Puerto Plata in December 2022 and engaged in a four-month relationship with her with the mother’s consent.

Franco is accused of making monthly payments of $1,700 to the mother for seven months and purchasing a car for her “to facilitate the relationship and allow her to go out with him wherever she wanted”, according to the document, which quoted the girl.

The girl also stated her demand for a local digital media site to publish a story about her alleged relationship with the baseball player, expressing her frustration with her mother for reportedly taking Franco’s money and not sharing it with her.

Subsequently, Franco published a live video claiming it was a scheme to extort money from him, according to the document.

In September 2023, authorities raided the residence of the girl’s mother and seized 800,000 Dominican pesos ($13,700) and $68,500 hidden behind a frame. Additionally, a seizure at another property uncovered a guarantee certificate from a local bank for 2.1 million Dominican pesos ($36,000) purportedly provided by Franco for the “commercial and sexual exploitation” of the girl.

Furthermore, a Suzuki Swift valued at $26,600 was seized, and it was noted that the teenager’s mother had only $821 in her bank account just days before the purchase of the car. The mother also acquired property in Puerto Plata valued at $36,000, authorities stated.

Authorities have suggested that Franco’s mother sent money to the girl’s mother, but she has not been charged in the case, despite reportedly getting involved “to avoid traces of her son with the accused.”

Accompanied by a group of journalists, Franco arrived at a court in Puerto Plata on Friday morning and maintained silence. Similarly, the girl’s mother, who works at a local bank and was wearing sunglasses, also refrained from commenting as she was escorted to a courtroom.

Outside, a small cluster of young Dominican players dressed in baseball attire gathered to express support for Franco, holding posters that read, “Free Franco,” and “We all are Franco.”

Prior to being sidelined in August, Franco was enjoying an All-Star season. This was in the wake of authorities in the Dominican Republic initiating an investigation into claims of his involvement in a relationship with a minor. Major League Baseball subsequently commenced its own investigation, placing Franco on the restricted list on Aug. 14 before transitioning him to administrative leave on Aug. 22. Both investigations are ongoing.

In 2021, Franco signed an 11-year contract worth $182 million. His annual salary for last year and this year is $2 million.


Reporting from San Juan, Puerto Rico by Coto

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