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Lions coach Matt Patricia won’t be disciplined for 1996 sexual assault indictment

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The case involved Patricia and a college teammate.

Detroit Lions Introduce Matt Patricia Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was arrested, charged, and later indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault in 1996, but never stood trial or faced a conviction, according to a report the Detroit News published Wednesday. The alleged incident occurred while Patricia was a member of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s football team and involved one of his teammates as well.

After meeting with the Lions and Patricia, the NFL will not hand down any discipline:

According to the Detroit News’ report, the accuser declined to testify, and prosecutors were forced to dismiss the case before it could be tried. A hand-written note from the Cameron County assistant district attorney’s January 1997 motion to dismiss said that the “victim does not feel she can face the pressures or stress of a trial.”

The report also quotes Lions team president Rod Wood, who told the outlet that he didn’t know about the incident, but later made this statement to the Detroit News:

“I am very comfortable with the process of interviewing and employing Matt,” Wood said. “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.”

Team owner Martha Ford also did not know about the allegations at the time Patricia was hired, per the report. The report also says Lions general manager Bob Quinn, who worked with Patricia in New England for over 10 years, didn’t know about the indictment, according to Wood.

The Detroit News notes Massachusetts state law bars employers from asking about arrests that did not end in a conviction. Before he was hired by the Lions, Patricia worked and lived in the state as part of the New England Patriots organization. The report also stated this, on the subject of background checks:

The month before the Lions hired Patricia, the New Jersey-based private investigations firm APG Security requested copies of the indictment and dismissal from the county prosecutor’s office, The News has learned. When contacted by the News, an APG official said he was unaware of anyone requesting the court records.

“We did a complete background check,” said Wood in a statement to the Detroit News. “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.”

After the publishing of the report, Patricia released an official statement, as did Ford, Quinn, and Wood in the form of a joint statement.

Patricia’s statement:

“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 Ford, Quinn and 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.”

And here’s what Patricia’s former boss, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, had to say about his former assistant.

At a press conference Thursday, Patricia issued a similar statement, telling reporters “I do not condone any of the kind of behavior that is alleged and I never have.”

He also made it clear that the surfaced allegations will have no impact on his status with the team and that he’s “100 percent the coach of the Detroit Lions.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy also said the league would look into the situation:

Patricia, 43, was hired as the head coach of the Lions this offseason after 14 seasons in various roles with the Patriots’ organization.