Head coach Patricia: Lions 'didn't ask' about 1996 incident

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia again denied allegations he was involved in a sexual assault in 1996 in a previously scheduled press conference at the team facility on Thursday.

"Thankfully, truth is on my side," Patricia said reading a prepared statement after discussing a bombshell report with his team earlier in the day. "I was innocent then, and I am innocent now."

Patricia said his mission is to move forward, "100 percent the head coach of the Detroit Lions," and said he was never asked about the incident during the interview process.

Patricia, then a football player for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one of his friends were accused of sexually assaulting a woman in South Padre Island, Texas, during spring break in 1996.

SEE EARLIER: Lions learn of dismissed 1996 Matt Patricia sex assault case through reporter inquiry

Patricia said what's important "is what didn't happen" 22 years ago.

"I was falsely accused of something I did not do. I did nothing wrong. That's all I'm going to say on this matter," Patricia said.

Patricia, then 21, and Greg Dietrich, then 22, were arrested and later indicted by a grand jury on a count of sexual assault, according to the Detroit News. The charges later were dropped without a trial when the woman declined to testify, according to the News.

"I went through the process and the case was dismissed," Patricia said.

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ALLEN PARK, MI - FEBRUARY 07: Matt Patricia speaks at a press conference after being hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions at the Detroit Lions Practice Facility on February 7, 2018 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia looks at a play card in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
ALLEN PARK, MI - FEBRUARY 07: Matt Patricia speaks at a press conference after being hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions at the Detroit Lions Practice Facility on February 7, 2018 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ALLEN PARK, MI - FEBRUARY 07: Matt Patricia speaks at a press conference after being hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions at the Detroit Lions Practice Facility on February 7, 2018 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots' defensive coordinator Matt Patricia reacts during the second quarter. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 17: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, chats with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, right, during practice at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 17, 2018. The Patriots prepare for the AFC championship game against Jacksonville. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on February 28, 2018 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 28: Detroit Lions head coach matt Patricia leaves the final meetings at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 28, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on February 28, 2018 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 07: New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia reacts on the sideline during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on September 7, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 19: New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia watches a replay during the NFL preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans on August 19, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON - FEBRUARY 7: Matt Patricia, left, holds up a Lombardi Trophy and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves during the New England Patriots Super Bowl LI Victory Parade in Boston on Feb. 7, 2017. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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When asked Thursday if he had consensual sex with the alleged victim, Patricia said "I did nothing wrong."

Patricia repeated that the incident did not come up in the interview process with the Lions.

"As far as the interview process (with the Lions) is concerned, there was nothing that I did not answer truthfully," Patricia said.

Patricia addressed his team Thursday and told them he was focused on football, denied the allegations of assault and encouraged players and coaches to "be sensitive and responsible, use this as a learning moment for them."

Patricia released a statement Wednesday through the Lions that read, "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 team owner Martha Ford, president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn put out a joint statement that read, in part, "There was no settlement agreement with the complaining individual (regarding the alleged assault), no money exchanged hands and there was no confidentiality agreement. In discussions today with Lions management, the (Detroit News) 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."

Wood also told the News, "I am very comfortable with the process of interviewing and employing Matt. I will tell you with 1,000 percent certainty that everything I've learned confirmed what I already knew about the man and would have no way changed our decision to make him our head coach."

Patricia was an assistant coach with the New England Patriots from 2004-2017, spending the past six years as the team's defensive coordinator. He helped lead the club to three Super Bowl championships and six Super Bowl appearances.

--Field Level Media

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