Texas officials are seeking to conceal new records recovered from the 1996 sexual assault case against Detroit Lions coach Matthew Patricia.
The revelation was made Thursday by the City of South Padre Island in Texas in response to a request from The Detroit News and other media outlets for information related to the alleged incident that occurred at a hotel there more than two decades ago.
In a letter to the Texas Attorney General's Office dated Thursday, South Padre Island Public Information Officer Angelique Soto said the discovered files include “internal working documents that would be used in the process of submitting cases to the District Attorney’s Office and reporting a criminal history to the Texas Department of Public Safety.”
The original case file, however, was destroyed after being held in records until 2006, Soto noted.
A grand jury indicted Patricia as well as a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football teammate, Greg Dietrich, on one count each of aggravated sexual assault involving a 21-year-old college student, but the felony charges were dismissed when the accuser declined to testify, saying she could not face the stress of a trial, according to court records.
The allegations were reported by The Detroit News this month. The case was dismissed by the Cameron County district attorney’s office “and the City of South Padre Island would not want internal working documents to be released in the event it could jeopardize future cases,” Soto wrote Thursday.
“The city is requesting to withhold the information as this case has been dismissed, but the release of information could jeopardize a person’s identity. Furthermore, the information on file are internal records of the South Padre Island Police Department, codes are used by officers and release of the documents could unduly interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention.”
A day after The Detroit News broke the story on Patricia's indictment, the Lions head coach defended himself with a three-minute statement, proclaiming his innocence.
“I do not condone any of the type of behavior that has been alleged, and I never have," he said. "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."
Representatives for the Texas attorney general did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
Dietrich pleaded not guilty to the charge, noted John Tasolides, his lawyer, earlier this month.
The surviving documents could include summaries of forensic evidence and interviews with the accuser, and possibly, Patricia and Dietrich, said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. The documents could also include the investigators’ assessment of the credibility of key figures involved, including Patricia, he said.
“We don’t know if (Patricia and Dietrich) consented to an interview, but those notes and any forensic evidence likely would be in that,” Henning said. “This would add to what’s known (publicly) about the investigation.”
The News previously reported that investigators collected statements from five witnesses and medical evidence from the 21-year-old college student who accused Patricia and Dietrich of violently sexually assaulting her.
The list included her college classmate, an emergency room nurse and doctor at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, Texas, and two law enforcement personnel with the South Padre Island Police Department.
It is unclear if that medical evidence included DNA evidence, though former South Padre Island Police Chief E.E. Eunice has told The News it was customary for his department to take sexual-assault accusers to an area hospital so medical staff could search for evidence of sexual assault.
Cameron County Court records show Patricia’s lawyer, Jeff Wilson, requested a copy of the accuser’s medical report on Oct. 30, 1996, seven months after Patricia and Dietrich were arrested during Texas Week on South Padre Island, Texas.
Earlier this week, the NFL ruled that neither Patricia nor the Lions would face discipline from the league regarding the indictment.