Lions reaction to The News' Matt Patricia report
Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, as well as the team’s leadership, released statements late Wednesday evening reacting to The Detroit News’ report Patricia had been indicted, but not tried, for an alleged sexual assault in 1996.
“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 wrote in a 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.”
When contacted this week by The News, the Lions acknowledged they had not been aware of the incident.
Owner Martha Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and team president Rod Wood released a joint statement Monday night.
“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,” the statement said. “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 was a 21-year-old student and offensive lineman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at the time of the allegations. He was arrested along with teammate and fraternity brother Greg Dietrich in South Padre Island in March, 1996 after a 21-year-old woman accused the pair of breaking into her hotel room and sexually assaulting her.
The two were released on $20,000 bond. In August that year, a grand jury indicted Patricia and Dietrich each on one account of aggravated sexual assault. The case was eventually dropped in January 1997, when the accuser didn’t return to court and the prosecution requested dismissal.
“Victim does not feel she can face the pressures or stress of a trial,” a hand-written note said on the motion to dismiss the case.
The News made multiple attempts to reach the accuser, but messages were not returned.