Matt Patricia Strongly Denies 1996 Sexual Assault Allegation; Lions Support Him

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia released a statement Thursday morning after The Detroit News revealed he had been indicted for sexual assault in 1996.

According to the report, Patricia, who was 21 at the time, and a fellow Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football player and fraternity brother were alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room in South Padre Island, Texas.

Patricia and the other player, Greg Dietrich, were indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault, but the case later was dismissed before it could go to trial after their accuser declined to testify.

In his statement, Patricia said he was “falsely accused” and called the newspaper’s reporting of the story “incredibly unfair.”

“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,” Patricia said. “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.”

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, team president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn expressed their support for the coach in a joint statement.

“Responding to a published report this evening from the Detroit News,” the statement read, “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 (Wednesday) 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.”

Before being hired by the Lions in February, Patricia spent 14 years as a New England Patriots assistant, including six as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images

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