It has now been more than 36 hours since The Detroit News published their report on Matt Patricia’s sexual assault indictment from 1996. Since then, Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions have responded both to the 22-year-old accusations and the coverage of said event.
Since the story dropped on Wednesday, I have seen several common misinterpretations of the facts and misconceptions in comment sections and social media. To clear up some confusion, here are some of the bigger misconceptions I have seen, as well as what we actually know.
Misconception: The alleged victim recanted the sexual assault allegations
There is no record that the woman who initially accused Patricia of sexual assault pulled her claims. The woman did not show up to the court case, and, according to a handwritten note by the district attorney, it was because she didn’t think she could handle “the pressures or stress of a trial.”
Wood told The Detroit News that the woman recanted allegations “multiple times,” but as The Detroit News notes, there is no evidence of that from court records nor from Patricia’s lawyers.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, but there is currently no public evidence that the woman recanted her story. The case was dropped because she did not show up to the proceedings.
Misconception: The Lions should have caught this with a criminal background check
This is a tricky topic that requires a look at how background checks and the interview process work. Thankfully, The MMQB’s Michael McCann provides a nice legal context to this situation:
“Employers and employment verification companies almost always check a job candidate’s past for any criminal convictions or plea deals. However, many do not check for arrests or charges.”
This is, in fact, exactly what team president Rod Wood claims happened. “Our background check was limited to employment matters only and does not disclose any criminal matters that don’t result in a conviction or a plea agreement,” Wood told The Detroit News.
However, it can certainly be argued that the Lions should have gone deeper with their background check. As pointed out by Deadspin, it only took them a few seconds to find the allegations via popular web research tool Nexis. (Though Deadspin did have the benefit of hindsight and knowing exactly what to look for.)
Whether any other team would have discovered these allegations is very much up for debate. The New England Patriots admitted they did not know about the allegations, despite employing Patricia for 14 years. However, teams may be generally more thorough when vetting head coaching hires compared to assistants.
We do know that someone looked into court records a month before the Lions hired Patricia. The Detroit News reported that a New Jersey private investigations firm requested copies of the indictment, but it’s unclear if this was the Lions, another NFL team interested in Patricia or an unrelated party.
For what it’s worth, Jed Hughes, an NFL consultant who has helped several teams conduct coaching searches in the past, does a more thorough look into candidates’ past that could have found these allegations.
“When we hire, we use an outside group called the Mintz Group [private investigators] and they go into the court records and all that kind of stuff. There’s another level of due diligence with them in the court and all the public records that we don’t have access to.”
It’s unclear whether Hughes, if hired, would have found the records of the Patricia arrest, but it’s clear he likely would have done a more thorough background check than Wood and the Lions performed.
Misconception: The Detroit News did not give the Lions — and Patricia — the opportunity to tell their side of the story
This is just plainly false. Lions team president Rod Wood offered several quotes for the original piece. Additionally, The Detroit News claims they reached out to both Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, but they were not available for comment.
It is unclear how long they gave both Quinn and Patricia to respond, but the article states they weren’t available Wednesday, the same day the story eventually dropped.