"I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done."
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has issued a statement explaining that he was wrongly accused of sexual assault while he was a college student in 1996.
Robert Snell of the Detroit News recently unearthed the case and released a report about it on Wednesday night, prompting Patricia to address the claims. According to the report, during a 1996 spring break trip on South Padre Island in Texas, a 21-year old woman alleged to police that two football players from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute “burst” into her hotel room and took turns sexually assaulting her.
A Texas grand jury ultimately indicted each man, including Patricia, of aggravated sexual assault and a trial was scheduled for January 1997. However, the woman declined to testify saying she didn't think she should "face the pressure and stress of a trial." With no victim to testify, prosecutors dismissed the charges.
The Lions say they were unaware of the case when they hired Patricia in February, but owner Martha Ford, team president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn released a joint statement late Wednesday expressing support for the head coach.
Patricia also released the following 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," Patricia said in the statement. "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."