CLEVELAND — A civil jury has found a woman liable for malicious prosecution in a rape allegation she made against a former Ohio State football standout more than five years ago, Cleveland.com reported.
The accusation against Gareon Conley came shortly before the 2017 NFL draft, in which he had been projected to be a high first-round pick. The 23-year-old woman alleged that he had sexually assaulted her in a Cleveland hotel room. Conley's attorney said the sex was consensual.
A grand jury in Cleveland declined to indict Conley on any of the possible charges according to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office, and he signed a four-year contract with the Oakland Raiders, who made him the 24th overall pick. The woman filed a lawsuit a year later, accusing him of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Conley sued her in a counterclaim, accusing her of malicious prosecution.
Cleveland.com reports that jurors sided with Conley after a 10-day trial in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, finding that the woman had failed to show that he had assaulted her. Jurors ordered her to pay him $300, including $100 in punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees. A message seeking comment was sent to her attorney.
Conley's attorney, John Camillus, presented testimony from a former NFL general manager that the accusations cost him a higher draft selection and likely shaved more than $2 million off his rookie contract, but Conley only asked jurors to award him $300.
"It was never about the money. It was always about clearing his name and restoring his reputation," Camillus said.
Conley, currently a free agent while rehabbing from a 2020 injury, said in a statement on social media Monday that "after 5 1/2 long years" he was "grateful and relieved to finally be fully exonerated."
The Raiders traded Conley after the 2019 season to the Houston Texans, who released him after he spent the entire 2020 season on the injured reserve list with an ankle injury that required surgery, Cleveland.com reported. Camillus said his client intends to return to the NFL.