Newly hired Detroit Lions head coach and former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault back in 1996, according to a report from the Detroit Press.
At the time, Patricia was 21 was charged alongside his teammate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s football team. However, the case did not go to trial.
According to the newspaper article from ’96, the women met Patricia and his teammate during “Texas Week” , which is a huge party on South Padre Island just north of Mexico.
At approximately 6 p.m. on Friday, March 15, the men arrived at a room at the Radisson hotel where the woman was sleeping, the newspaper reported.
Patricia and Dietrich “burst into” the room and awoke the woman before taking turns sexually assaulting her, according to the newspaper.
There are few other specific allegations about the incident, since it happened 22 years ago. The News said that the police report from the incident had been discarded, and “the police chief, lieutenant, grand jury forewoman, prosecutor, assistant prosecutor (and) defense attorneys” all could not remember the case. The alleged victim also did not respond to attempts by the News to contact her, but according to court records, she ultimately decided not to testify in the case.
With no trial, there was no finding of guilt for either man, and the case was dismissed in January 1997. “Victim does not feel she can face the pressures or stress of a trial,” reads a note from the Assistant District Attorney in the motion to dismiss the case.
According to the report, the Lions said they were unaware of the indictment when they hired Patricia, as their background check only covered criminal convictions. But while team president Rod Wood said he was initially surprised by the news, within hours he delivered a strong statement of support for the coach:
“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 also said the woman recanted the sexual assault allegations multiple times — a claim not substantiated by existing records or lawyers for Patricia and his fraternity brother.
Following this report resurfacing, the Detroit Lions released the following statement regarding the matter:
“Responding to a published report this evening from the Detroit News, The Detroit Lions are aware that a criminal charge involving sexual assault was brought against Matt Patricia in 1996. Matt was 21 at the time and on spring break in Texas. The charge was dismissed by the prosecutor at the request of the complaining individual prior to trial. As a result, Coach Patricia never had the opportunity to present his case or clear his name publicly in a court of law. He has denied that there was any factual basis for the charge. There was no settlement agreement with the complaining individual, no money exchanged hands and there was no confidentiality agreement. In discussions today with Lions management, the reporter involved acknowledged that the allegations have not been substantiated.
“As an organization, The Detroit Lions take allegations regarding sexual assault or harassment seriously. Coach Patricia was the subject of a standard pre-employment background check which did not disclose this issue. 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. We will continue to work with our players and the NFL to further awareness of and protections for those individuals who are the victims of sexual assault or violence.”
Patricia, also released this statement via Lions official website:
“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.”
The NFL also released a statement of their own:
From @NFLprguy on the recent news regarding #Lions coach Matt Patricia and a past allegation that came to light last night: “We will review the matter with the club to understand the allegations and what the club has learned.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 10, 2018