Antonio Brown, it seems, has just jumped out of a frying pan and into the fire. On Tuesday evening it emerged that the embattled New England Patriots wide receiver is the subject of a federal civil complaint alleging – among other things – that he sexually assaulted and raped his former trainer.
The suit also claims for sexual battery, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and invasion of privacy for unwanted and offensive sexual contact.
Content of Allegations
According to the complaint, Brown met his former trainer – Britney Taylor – when the two were students at Central Michigan University in 2010 and paired together during Bible study through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Taylor was a freshman gymnast and Brown was a star receiver on the football team.
Taylor claims Brown assaulted her in three separate incidents, two of which occurred in June 2017 and the third in May 2018.
The first incident alleges Brown to have exposed his penis to Taylor and kissed her without her consent whilst the two were in his home in Pittsburgh.
The second alleges that whilst the two were watching a church service on an iPad, Brown began masturbating behind Taylor without her knowing, ejaculated on her back and then bragged about it to her via text message.
The third and final allegation – by far the most serious – is that Brown cornered Taylor in a hotel room, pulled her down on the bed on her stomach, pushed her face down on the mattress, lifted her dress and raped her ‘with great violence’.
Brown – through his lawyer Darren Heitner – responded vociferously late Tuesday night, releasing a statement asserting that the receiver and Taylor were involved in a “consensual personal relationship” and that “any sexual interaction with Mr. Brown was entirely consensual.”
Where to from here?
At this stage this is merely a civil complaint. There is no indication that Taylor has been in contact with police, or even if police are aware of what is being alleged.
Understandably, though, the New England Patriots and the NFL are taking the content of the complaint extremely seriously:
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Brown’s current franchise were caught by surprise by the allegations and are unsure how to proceed. The seven-time Pro Bowler was due for his first practice in New England on Wednesday.
The key take-away from the Patriots’ statement is that the NFL are indeed investigating Brown’s conduct.
As there are – as yet – no criminal charges and there has been no action from the league Brown remains eligible to suit up for the Patriots this coming Sunday.
Under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, the league can impose disciplinary measures regardless of whether Brown’s conduct ends up amounting to a criminal conviction.
“Assault and/or battery, including sexual assault or other sex offenses” are specifically included as offences which – if proven by the NFL’s investigation – will result in Brown receiving a disciplinary sanction.
The policy further states that when a violation relating to a crime of violence is suspected but further investigation is required, the Commissioner may determine to place Brown on the Commissioner Exempt List to permit the league to conduct an investigation.
Such an action by Roger Goodell would mean Brown would not be counted on the Patriots’ active roster and thus would be ineligible to play, with the Patriots able to determine whether they pay him while he remains on effectively administrative leave. Given the severity of the allegations and Brown’s checkered professional history (to say the least of it) this is – according to many – a likely outcome.
The key here though is that Brown is not facing criminal sanction. There is no indication he will face criminal charges at any point. It may even be the case that police have conducted their own investigation and determined there is not enough evidence to suggest Brown committed the acts alleged by Taylor.
Based on the strong repudiations by Brown’s lawyers, there are at least some fairly compelling facts pointing towards his innocence. Heitner claims, for example, that Taylor traveled from Tennessee to Florida and returned at 2 a.m. to Brown’s residence ten days after the alleged rape in May of 2018.
It’s been a bad start to Brown’s 2019 campaign. It may be about to get worse.
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