(BlackburnNews.com file photo by Mike James)

Lions Coach Addresses Old Sexual Assault Charge

The Detroit Lions’ new head coach says he’s innocent in a 22-year-old sexual assault case.

Matt Patricia addressed the situation with reporters at the team’s headquarters in Allen Park, Michigan Thursday. His remarks were in response to a story run by multiple news organisations saying that Patricia and a teammate faced a sexual assault charge in 1996 when both were players at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in upstate New York.

In the press conference, streamed on the Detroit Lions’ official website, the 43-year-old says he and the teammate, Greg Dietrich, were indicted for the sexual assault of a woman on South Padre Island, Texas. The case never went to trial and was dismissed after the alleged victim refused to specify when she would be ready to testify.

The woman has not been identified.

“The truth is on my side,” said Patricia. “I lived with the mental torture of the situation where facts could be completely ignored and misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would cause for another person.”

The incident allegedly took place during spring break, in an area that is very popular with college and university students. Patricia and Dietrich had just completed their final season with RPI’s football program.

In the complaint, the woman said that Patricia and Dietrich entered her hotel room while she was sleeping and sexually assaulted her.

Patricia said he wanted to clear his name, and that the whole ordeal was a traumatic experience for himself and Dietrich. In the face of the current #MeToo movement calling attention to sexual misconduct by those in the public eye, Patricia said he does not condone such behaviour in any way.

“I’m innocent then, and I’m innocent now,” said Patricia.

The Lions said in a statement that the indictment did not come up when they screened Patricia as a candidate for their head coaching job and that they support Patricia. Lions owner Martha Ford, president Ron Wood and general manager Bob Quinn attended the press conference but did not speak.

Patricia was hired by the Lions earlier this year to replace the fired Jim Caldwell. He had previously worked for 12 years on the staff at the New England Patriots, most recently as their defensive coordinator.