Lions coach Patricia denies 1996 sexual assault allegation

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia defended himself Thursday against a 1996 sexual assault allegation that resurfaced this week.

“I’m here to defend my honor and clear my name,” Patricia said at the beginning of a news conference at the team’s headquarters.

“Twenty-two years ago I was falsely accused of very serious allegations,” he said. “There were claims made against me that never happened.”

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The Detroit News reported Wednesday that a Texas grand jury indicted Patricia and a friend 22 years ago on one count each of aggravated sexual assault for an alleged incident involving a woman on South Padre Island.

The case was dismissed 10 months after the indictment after the accuser refused to testify.

The Lions hired Patricia away from his position as defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots this offseason to replace fired coach Jim Caldwell.

While Patricia said he was thankful the case dismissed, he said he was frustrated he never had the opportunity to defend himself.

“This was something that was very traumatic to me when I was 21 years old,” he said “And once it was finally addressed, I tried to put it behind me.”

Patricia, who said the indictment never came up in the interview process with the Lions, said he has always been truthful when the issue came up in the past.

“I was innocent then and I’m innocent now,” he said, while adding that he found it “unfair and upsetting” that the case would resurface 22 years later in an attempt “to damage my character and credibility.”

Patricia’s news conference Thursday followed a joint statement issued by himself and the Detroit Lions on Wednesday night.

In that statement, attributed to owner Martha Firestone Ford, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood, the team said that a “standard pre-employment background check” did not reveal the incident, but that the team was standing by Patricia.

“We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time,” the team’s statement said. “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.”