On Wednesday night, The Detroit News reported that new Lions coach and former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault in 1996, but was neither tried nor convicted. Patricia was 21 at the time.
Later on Wednesday night, Patricia released a statement through the team, in which he maintained his innocence.
"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."
Lions owner Martha Ford, general manager Bob Quinn, and team president Rod Wood released a joint statement backing their new coach.
"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."
The Detroit News' Robert Snell reported that Patricia and his friend, Greg Dietrich, were arrested and charged with sexual assault at South Padre Island, Texas in 1996 after they allegedly "took turns violently sexually assaulting" the woman in her hotel room. There weren't many details from the report about the alleged incident itself, as "the police report was discarded, and several figures involved said they could not recall the case -- not the police chief, lieutenant, grand jury forewoman, prosecutor, assistant prosecutor or defense attorneys," Snell wrote in his story.
One of the attorneys representing Patricia told the newspaper that the allegation was a "fabrication." According to the report, the accuser, who did not respond to the News' attempts to contact her, decided not to testify. The case was dismissed in January 1997.
"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.
Patricia,, was an assistant coach for the Patriots from 2004-17. Over the past six seasons, he served as their defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick and developed a reputation as one of the game's best defensive minds. As a result, the Lions . According to The Detroit News and the Lions' statement above, the team was not aware of the allegations from 1996 when they hired him.