Dismissed sexual-assault case against Lions’ Patricia had at least 5 witnesses

SHARE Dismissed sexual-assault case against Lions’ Patricia had at least 5 witnesses

Lions coach Matt Patricia introduces first-round draft pick Frank Ragnow at the team’s training facility on April 27 in Allen Park, Mich. Patricia is maintaining his innocence after a 1996 sexual-assault allegation against him resurfaced in reports May 9. | Carlos Osorio/AP

The prosecution’s witness list in the sexual assault case against Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia included a nurse, a doctor, a police detective, a police officer and a college friend of the alleged victim, according to court documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press.

The documents shed light on how police and prosecutors built their case against Patricia, who was set to go to trial on Oct. 21, 1997, until his accuser decided she couldn’t take the stress. The charges were dropped 10 months after the alleged incident.

According to court documents, the alleged victim was treated at a hospital called Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, Texas, which is about a 20-minute drive from South Padre Island. That’s where the woman claims Patricia and a college friend sexually assaulted her in a hotel room during a March 1996 spring break trip.

Prosecutors, court records show, obtained medical evidence.

“In a sexual assault case, part of the investigation is medical … the victim is taken to a hospital to have medical exams taken on her to corroborate (her claims),” Cameron County District District Attorney Luis Saenz said Friday.

It is not known whether DNA evidence was obtained.

Former emergency room nurse Nancy Nadeau, 54, one of the prosecution’s witnesses, declined comment on the case citing HIPPA rules. But she did say that generally, when sex assault victims go to the length of going to a hospital for testing and police are involved, that raises suspicion that “something happened.”

Former South Padre Police Chief E.E. Eunice, who oversaw the police department during the alleged incident, said “it’s likely a detective took the person to the hospital for the examination,” as is customary in sex crimes.

“They were slowly progressing,” Eunice said of the prosecutor’s office, noting he couldn’t recall the investigation given it happened so long ago. “During spring break, there are thousands of people on the island. Based on my experiences, a sexual assault like this is not necessarily a rarity.”

Saenz said during spring break, the DA’s office, on average, handles two to five sex assault cases, half of which end like the Patricia case: Charges are dropped because the accuser decides not to testify.

The sticking issue in these cases, Saenz said, is consent.

“It’s more often than not a consent issue. The defendant said she consented and the victim says ‘No I did not.’ It’s not whether or not there was sexual activity. The key question is the consent.” Saenz said.

Patricia and a former college friend Greg Dietrich, were indicted by a Texas grand jury in 1996 on aggravated sexual assault charges. The pair were accused of bursting into a 21-year-old college student’s hotel room at 6 p.m. in March 1996 and sexually assaulting her, according to the Brownsville Herald newspaper.

The woman told police she knew both men and that she had befriended them on the beach prior to the alleged attack, the newspaper reported. Both Patricia and Dietrich were arrested that same night and released on bond.

Five months later, they were indicted by a Texas grand jury. In January 1997,  the case was dismissed.

The South Padre Island police department does not have a computerized record of the investigation. Police officials said Friday that in 1996, the retention policy for police records was only 10 years. But the department is currently going through old storage files manually to see whether a paper record of the police report still exists.

In the Patricia case, the NFL coach has adamantly maintained that he is innocent and that he was falsely accused.

“I was innocent then, and I am innocent now,” Patricia said, in a news conference Thursday.

When asked whether he was in the hotel room on the day of the alleged incident, or if any consensual sex took place, he would only say: “Again, I did nothing wrong, and that’s all I’m going to say on that matter.”

The Lions organization is standing by Patricia. The NFL has said it is investigating the alleged incident.

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