MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota Vikings running back Moe Williams, charged last fall after a raunchy team boat party that tarnished the Vikings' season, was found guilty of disorderly conduct Thursday.
A jury found him not guilty of two other misdemeanors -- indecent conduct and lewd or lascivious behavior. Williams was accused of touching the breasts of a dancer in a public space during the boat
cruise on Lake Minnetonka in suburban Minneapolis.
"I never intended to do anything that would basically make
anybody feel uncomfortable," Williams said after the verdict.
Hennepin County District Judge Kevin Burke fined Williams $300 and ordered him to complete 30 hours of community service that benefits women or children. The exact program was not immediately determined.
In finding Williams guilty of just one charge, the jury determined he had touched the woman in view of other people or where other people could see but that he hadn't intended to be lewd or indecent.
Afterward, Williams complained about being treated unfairly, saying he wondered why the captain of the cruise, who is white,
wasn't charged despite evidence that he kissed a dancer's breast.
Prosecutor Steve Tallen denied that race was a factor in his
decision about filing charges, and he has said the case against the
captain was shaky. Williams is black.
Williams, 32, was the first player tried on charges related to the Oct. 6 party, in which Vikings rookies arranged to take veterans out onto Lake Minnetonka on two boats. Tackle Bryant McKinnie and cornerback Fred Smoot face the same charges and are set to go on trial in May. Charges against former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who has since been traded to the Dolphins, were dropped.
Prosecutors described the party as "a floating orgy" in which women on the boat changed into thong underwear and bras, gave players lap dances and, in some cases, stripped naked. They said the crew was frightened and intimidated.
As one witness testified, "After we left the dock, it turned into a strip club."
The defense didn't counter that characterization, arguing there was, indeed, a wild party on the deck of the "Avanti" -- while
Williams was enjoying drinks at the bar down below. The defense
also didn't deny that Williams had an encounter with a dancer.
In his closing argument Thursday morning, Tallen compared the case to buying a house, saying "it's all about location, location, location."
Tallen urged jurors to find Williams guilty because he touched the dancer's breasts in an area near a bathroom where people were coming and going. Two waitresses testified that they saw Williams touch the woman as they squeezed by to get bar supplies.
Defense attorney Joe Friedberg, in his summary, said Williams didn't intend to break the law or offend anyone and that his encounter with the dancer was brief and in a remote part of the
"There is an element of intent here, and that's what Moe
Williams didn't have," he said.
Williams didn't testify during the trial, which began Tuesday
with jury selection, and the defense didn't call any witnesses. The
jury began deliberations around 10:45 a.m. Thursday and reached a
verdict around 2:15 p.m.
Friedberg told jurors Williams didn't deserve "a medal" for his conduct but that it was "minimal" compared with what other players were doing on the deck. As for the dance at issue, "Mr. Williams was having a good time with a woman who was 100 percent consenting," he said Wednesday.
Tallen said the case didn't hinge on whether Williams' behavior was better or worse than others on the boat. "We're not here to
get the really, really bad ones," he told the jury. "We're here
to get the ones who broke the law, and the ones who were
Williams, who spent 10 years in the NFL, injured his knee last season and said Thursday he would probably retire. He lives in Florida.