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Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia speaks at a press conference, concerning his indictment in a 1996 sexual assault case, at the training facility in Allen Park, Michigan on May 10, 2018. Patricia says he was falsely accused. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

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Allen Park — A day after 22-year-old sexual assault allegations against Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia resurfaced, he passionately denied the accusations during a press conference at the team’s practice facility on Thursday.

With team owner Martha Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood in attendance, demonstrating the organization’s unified support, Patricia opened the press conference with a three-minute statement.

“I'm here to defend my honor and clear my name,” Patricia said. “Twenty-two years ago, I was falsely accused of something very serious — very serious allegations. There were claims made about me that never happened. I'm thankful, on one level, that the process worked and the case was dismissed. At the same time, I was never given the opportunity to defend myself or to allow pushback and the truth to clear my name.”

Patricia, along with a friend and college teammate, were arrested in March, 1996 for an alleged sexual assault that occurred in a South Padre Island, Texas, hotel. A grand jury eventually indicted both on one count of aggravated sexual assault, but the charges were dismissed when the accuser failed to return and take part in a potential trial.

“This was something that was very traumatic to me when I was 21 years old,” he said. “Once it was finally addressed, I tried to put it behind me. For those of you that are just getting to know me, and for those who have known me for a long time, you should know I was raised the right way by two amazing parents who taught me to know the difference between right and wrong. To stand up for what's right. And to stand up for those who have been wronged. I have two older sisters that taught me respect and love. I will always try to protect them and keep them from harm. I'm a husband and a father to a wonderful and amazing family. I try to share those same values with them. I'm so thankful for my wife and my family for being supportive of me.

“I believe and have always acted with respect for all people, knowing everyone is someone's dad, mom, sister, brother, son or daughter,” he said. “I do not condone any of the type of behavior that has been alleged, and I never have. I've always been someone who respects and protects the rights of anyone who has been harassed or is the victim of violence, and we as an organization will continue to operate that way. In these times, we need to be even more sensitive and responsible in dealing with these issues, and separate right from wrong."

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Patricia turned his attention to criticizing the fact the story was reported.

“I lived with the mental torture of a situation where facts could be completely ignored or misrepresented, with disregard for the consequence or pain it would create for another person,” he said. “I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends and this organization, with the intention of damaging my character and credibility. I was innocent then, and I am innocent now. Let me be clear: My priorities remain the same, to move forward and strive to be the best coach, teacher and man that I can possibly be.”

After his statement, Patricia took questions from the media, but largely stuck to his statement, repeating his innocence when asked what happened the night of the accusation.

“Again, I think what’s important here, what happened 22 years ago is what didn’t happen,” he said. “As I said, I was innocent then and I am innocent now. I was falsely accused of something that I did not do.”

Patricia did confirm his arrest did not come up during his interview with the Lions, or any other job interview he’s had.

“I’ve interviewed for a lot of jobs,” Patricia said. “And again, interviewing for jobs in engineering right after the situation happened, it was never an issue. It never came up as anything because it was dismissed and I was innocent. So, it just has never been a part of any process that I’ve been involved with before.”

Prior to addressing the media, Patricia said he met with the team and shared the same statement. He also noted that he was trying to use the situation as a teaching tool.

“I also took this opportunity again, to one more time, focus on the fact that in this time we do need to be sensitive and responsible, and I used this as a learning moment for them so we can all try to be better,” he said.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/Justin_Rogers

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