Matt Patricia, Lions issue statement on '96 assault allegation

The Lions and new head coach Matt Patricia released two statements Wednesday night after a sexual assault accusation in Texas from 1996 surfaced allegedly involving Patricia and a fellow fraternity member, which was reported by The Detroit News.

According to Cameron County (Texas) Court records, Patricia and Gregory Dietrich were both indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault but the charge was later dismissed.

Patricia, who was 21 when the alleged incident occurred, said he was falsely accused.

"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 in a statement. "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."

Patricia was hired by the Lions as their new head coach in February. The Lions said that they were not aware of the allegations during the interview process and that they will continue to support him.

"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," owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and team president Rod Wood said in a statement. "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 league released the following statement on the matter Thursday morning, via NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport: "We will review the matter with the club to understand the allegations and what the club has learned."

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