Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia Was Indicted on Count of Sexual Assault in 1996

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist

The Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia introduces first-round draft pick Frank Ragnow at the team's training facility, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Allen Park, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was indicted on one count of aggravated sexual assault in 1996 but was never tried or convicted, according to Robert Snell of the Detroit News.

Patricia and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football teammate Greg Dietrich allegedly burst into a woman's hotel room in South Padre Island, Texas, and violently sexually assaulted her. The two were arrested and charged, but the woman decided not to testify.

The case was later dismissed.

A handwritten note in the motion to dismiss read, "Victim does not feel she can face the pressures or stress of a trial."

Patricia, who is now 43 years old, was 21 at the time of the alleged assault. He has since gone on to have a successful career in football.

CNN.com's Jill Martin provided a statement from 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."

He spent 14 years as a coach with the New England Patriots, moving from an assistant in 2004 to the defensive coordinator for the past six seasons. He became a head coach in February when the Lions hired him following the Patriots' loss in the Super Bowl.

After learning about Patricia's past, Lions president Rod Wood had little hesitation defending the coach.

"I am very comfortable with the process of interviewing and employing Matt," Wood told Snell. "I will tell you with 1,000-percent certainty that everything I've learned confirmed what I already knew about the man and would have no way changed our decision to make him our head coach."

Martin also provided an official statement from Wood, owner Martha Ford and general manager Bob Quinn:

“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.”

On Thursday, the NFL issued its own statement addressing the report to Martin:

"We will review the matter with the club to understand the allegations and what the club has learned," it read.

The NFL has penalized players under its personal conduct policy even without a court conviction, so the league will have to decide what action, if any, to take on Patricia.

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