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Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was indicted on sexual assault claims in ‘96, never saw trial

The Lions head coach was accused of sexually assaulting a woman during his college years.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 1996, during his days as a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was accused and indicted of sexual assault against a 21-year-old, according to a recent story from The Detroit News.

Patricia, who was 21-years-old at the time, and his friend, Greg Dietrich (22), were arrested and released on $20,000 bond following the charges. They were then summonsed to court. However, on the day the trial was supposed to pick a jury, the alleged victim did not show, and the case was immediately dismissed.

Details are scant on the allegations, but here’s what we know according to court records and news outlets at the time (via The Detroit News):

On the evening of March 15, 1996, the woman told police that two men burst into the upscale hotel room where she was sleeping and took turns violently sexually assaulting her, according to court records and a news account at the time. They were arrested, charged and later indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault — but they never stood trial and were not convicted.

Whether the woman recanted the allegations or simply decided not to show is unclear. Team President Rod Wood, who told the Detroit News that both he and general manager Bob Quinn were unaware of the allegations when they hired Patricia this February, said the woman recanted several times. The Detroit News says that claim is “not substantiated by existing records or lawyers for Patricia and his fraternity brother.”

What is clear is that at the time, the woman was under too much emotional distress to testify. Via The Detroit News:

“Victim does not feel she can face the pressures or stress of a trial,” reads a hand-written note above the signature of Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Reynolds-Church in the Jan. 28, 1997, motion to dismiss the case.

As of Wednesday evening, Patricia was scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday, for an already-scheduled press conference.

UPDATE: Bob Quinn, Martha Ford, and Rod Wood have offered official statements on the matter:

If you can’t read the fine print, here’s what it says:

Statement from Matt Patricia:

“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. 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.”

Joint statement from Bob Quinn, Martha Ford, and Rod Wood:

“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. 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.”

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