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Swirl of questions surrounds Lions’ Matt Patricia after dismissed sex assault case comes to light

Swirl of questions surrounds Lions’ Matt Patricia after dismissed sex assault case comes to light

On March 15, 1996, in the middle of spring break on South Padre Island, Texas, a 21-year-old woman alleged to police that two football players from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute “burst” into her hotel room and took turns sexually assaulting her.

On Aug. 16, 1996, a Texas grand jury indicted each man on the charge of aggravated sexual assault, a felony. A trial was scheduled for late January 1997. It fell apart when the woman declined to testify saying she didn’t know if she could “face the pressure and stress of a trial.”

With no victim to testify, the state determined it had no case. Prosecutors dismissed the charges. The men were free to carry on with their lives. They were innocent. They remain innocent.

There is nothing unusual about this old story – cases collapse often – except that one of the then-RPI football players indicted was named Matt Patricia. He’s 43 now and just happens to be the new head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Reporter Robert Snell of the Detroit News dug up the obscure case and released a story Wednesday night. The Lions say they were unaware of the indictment when they hired Patricia in February after a lengthy run as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots.

It leaves more questions than answers.

Patricia is legally innocent. Yet the allegation is so terrible that to some people, he’s forever stained. Yet if he was wrongly accused, then he’s the victim. Then again, how could the case proceed as far as it did if nothing happened at all?

Mostly though, what does everyone do now?

Well, without further information, not much.

The woman involved did not respond to repeated attempts for comment from the newspaper. She could certainly come forward and provide details, but it’s been more than two decades since the incident in question. As both an ideal and a practical matter, there is a reason statute of limitations exist, proving guilt or innocence can be impossible.

There is apparently no police report, a document lost through the years. Patricia and his co-defendant have always said they were innocent. Few others in South Padre remember the incident or the case. The Detroit News said it contacted “the police chief, lieutenant, grand jury forewoman, prosecutor, assistant prosecutor and defense attorney.” None could recall a thing about it.

Patricia, in a statement, said he was “falsely accused” and lamented that he wasn’t able to defend himself at the time, although he would have almost certainly been pleased that the case was dismissed without the risk of trial. Little did he know he’d be answering for it just after getting a high-profile job.

About all that is known is that at one point there was enough of a case that prosecutors were ready to go to trial on charges that could carry significant prison time (even life), and a grand jury believed that it merited an indictment, a low standard to clear, but still something.

Yet none of it ever got hashed out for the world to see. And it’s now Patricia who feels wronged.

  only purpose being to damage my character and reput

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