Barring a clear and unequivocal public declaration in the next 24 hours or so from the alleged victim that she was not sexually assaulted on April 9 by Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Conley will enter the draft with a cloud hanging over his NFL future. But with plenty of evidence available and with teams having the resources to find out even more, it’s possible that someone will take a calculated risk on Conley, if the team develops a sense that he’s innocent, and/or that the alleged victim doesn’t intend to press the issue.
The police report indicates that the alleged victim declined to be interviewed by police at a local hospital, after previously telling them her version of the events. Whether and to what extent the authorities convince her to cooperate and, eventually, to testify in court will go a long way toward determining whether Conley will be prosecuted. If the allegation persists in her refusal to continue to assist the investigation, the criminal case will go nowhere.
If the case proceeds, Conley could have a serious problem. The police report cites a rape statute, which makes the alleged crime a first-degree felony. Under Ohio law, that would result in a sentence of three to 11 years.
Conley has witnesses who claim that he “never touched” the alleged victim, and that she became upset after she was kicked out of the room. The rape kit that was administered to the alleged victim will shed more light on whether contact occurred, but ultimately it will be impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without cooperation and testimony from the alleged victim.
The victim’s name isn’t publicly known, but the teams either have or can get access to it. As a result, teams have been to do research regarding the alleged victim. It’s also possible that one or more teams will try to contact her directly in order to explain the importance of knowing by Thursday night what will happen with the situation before making a multi-million-dollar investment in Conley.
Regardless of what happens, the teams have every incentive to ensure that they aren’t squandering one of their most important assets. The stakes are high for everyone involved, and the sooner the truth emerges the better off everyone will be.
For Conley, the biggest problem is that, if he’s innocent, irreversible damage likely is going to be done to his NFL career. If he’s guilty, he rightfully should have far bigger problems than sliding in the draft.