Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was indicted in a 1996 sexual assault case, but not tried after his accuser declined to testify, court records surfaced by the Detroit News show.
The Lions, who hired Patricia away from the New England Patriots, first learned about the case when the News surfaced the story and asked team officials for comment.
Neither team president Rod Wood nor owner Martha Ford were aware of the 22-year-old court case when approached by reporters.
Lions didn’t know about charges vs. Patricia despite background check
Per the report:
When approached by The Detroit News, team president Rod Wood initially said “I don’t know anything about this” — but hours later said his review of the situation only reinforced the team’s decision to hire Patricia.
“I am very comfortable with the process of interviewing and employing Matt,” Wood said. “I will tell you with 1,000-percent certainty that everything I’ve learned confirmed what I already knew about the man and would have no way changed our decision to make him our head coach.”
Wood told the News that the Lions conducted a satisfactory background check before hiring Patricia.
“We did a complete background check,” Woods said. “Our background check was limited to employment matters only and does not disclose any criminal matters that don’t result in a conviction or a plea agreement.”
Patricia and Lions defend themselves via statements
After the publication of the News’ story, Patricia maintained his innocence and took issue with the report overall, saying in a statement:
“As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation. I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done.
“I would never condone any of the behavior that was alleged and will always respect and protect the rights of anyone who has been harassed or is the victim of violence. My priorities remain the same – to move forward and strive to be the best coach, teacher, and man that I can possibly be.”
Team owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and Wood stood by their head coach in a joint statement, saying:
“We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time. Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia’s explanation and we will continue to support him.”
Charges stem from alleged spring break incident at South Padre Island
According to the News, a 21-year-old college student spending spring break in 1996 at South Padre Island in Texas accused two football players from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of bursting into her hotel room and taking turns sexually assaulting her.
The two men accused were then 21-year-old Patricia and his 22-year-old teammate Greg Dietrich. Both men were indicted by a grand jury to face charges of aggravated sexual assault, but didn’t face trial after the alleged victim declined to testify and the case was dismissed at the request of prosecutors.
“Victim is unable to testify and can not give a date certain when she will be available,” the dismissal reads, according to the News. “Victim may request that the case be refiled at a later date.”
The felony charge carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Most involved don’t remember 22-year-old case against Patricia
The News contacted several people involved in the case, many of whom had no recollection of the incident.
Per the report:
Many details of the alleged attack are unclear. The police report was discarded, and several figures involved said they could not recall the case — not the police chief, lieutenant, grand jury forewoman, prosecutor, assistant prosecutor or defense attorneys.
The News also attempted to reach Patricia’s accuser for her account. She did not respond.
Patricia was not available for comment, but one of his lawyers spoke with the News.
“In my opinion, it was a fabrication,” Jeff Wilson said. “I’m telling you it was a ‘he said, she said.’ I don’t know what type of problems the girl was having; I don’t know why she made that allegation. We vehemently denied that he was doing anything wrong or did anything wrong.”
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