Gareon Conley Needs to Interview Immediately Regarding Sexual Assault Allegations, or His Draft Stock is Sunk

Stephen Douglas

Gareon Conley, a cornerback from Ohio State and projected first-round NFL Draft pick, has been accused of sexual assault. Police responded to a call from a 23-year old woman at Cleveland’s Westin Hotel at 3 a.m. on April 9.

The case had remained out of the public eye for two weeks, and Conley had yet to submit to an interview, perhaps an attempt to hold that off until after the draft Thursday. No charges have been filed and the investigation is ongoing.

Now, though, if Conley wants to preserve his draft status, he needs to immediately get contact the police and interview to attempt to clear his name, if he believes the evidence supports him.

Here are the details, via USA Today:

"According to the report, the woman told Conley “she wanted to watch (another) couple” (have sex) with the intention “to try and avoid having sex with Conley all together.” The report states that the woman and Conley eventually walked into the bathroom before Conley allegedly unbuttoned the woman’s pants and pulled them down. The woman alleges that Conley began to have sex with her, and that she told him “no, stop, it hurts!” The report states that Conley finished the sexual act and then made the accuser leave the room. Police later spoke to two witnesses who were in Conley’s room, and one claimed that Conley “never touched” the woman and added that she “got mad because she got kicked out of the room.” Another witness said he was sitting in a chair while Conley and the woman were in the room. That witness also said Conley and the accuser were “on the bed together, but nothing happened.”"

Gareon’s attorney spoke to Cleveland 19 News and denied the allegations. Via Cleveland 19:

"The player’s attorney says it all started at the Barley House on West 6th Street, when a group left there to go to the Westin for a hotel room party. He said his client was never alone with the alleged victim, and he has three witnesses who said he did nothing wrong. When police arrived at the Westin, the player had already left. The attorney said he is willing to bring his client in to be interviewed by police, but not right away. He has made arrangements for the interview to be held right after the NFL Draft."

Cleveland 19 is also looking into why the police hadn’t filed a completed report about the incident nearly two weeks later. The NFL Draft begins Thursday night in Philadelphia, barely more than 48 hours from this news breaking.

Gareon Conley has more to worry about than the draft with these accusations. His legal counsel must weigh what is best for his draft and employment prospects against what is best for his defense in any legal case. If he is convinced of his innocence, though, Conley and his attorney ought to change that approach and submit to an interview right away.

According to 92.3 the Fan in Cleveland, the alleged victim was taken to Metro Hospital where rape kit evidence was taken, but police were unsuccessful in their attempts to interview the woman.

For Conley to hold off appearing for an interview while the case was not in the public domain is one thing; waiting until after the draft now is another. The cat has taken a giant leap out of the bag.

The La’El Collins story broke on the Tuesday before the draft two years ago, after the murder of a pregnant 29-year-old woman in Baton Rouge. Even though the initial reports of the police wanting to question the LSU star stated he was not a suspect, but that they wanted to interview him on “paternal responsibility,” his draft stock plummeted. While there were some reports that he met with authorities, the Baton Rouge police denied that they had interviewed Collins on Wednesday or Thursday. By Thursday afternoon, teams were taking him off their draft boards until he was exonerated (which happened after the draft). He went undrafted and signed with the Dallas Cowboys, after being a projected first-round pick.

Conley can’t control what the police do. He can’t force them to make an investigation decision within 24 hours. But, there is no chance that a decision will be made until he submits for an interview. This will all play out in real time, and the difference of a day could be millions of dollars.

The timing on this case, where no police report was made available for two weeks, certainly hints at a hometown assist (Conley is from Massillon and played at Ohio State) to keep his name out of the headlines until after Thursday night and getting drafted. That’s now gone. The only option, other than pulling completely out of draft consideration, is to get make himself available to the police as long as he believes the evidence supports his  innocence.

If we get to Thursday night and nothing has been resolved, expect him to be off the board by many NFL teams. Taking a chance on a character risk with no further pending legal proceedings is one thing; handing millions to a player with an open rape case is another.