| USA TODAY
An Ohio jury ruled in favor of NFL free agent Gareon Conley on Thursday in the yearslong civil case regarding allegations of sexual assault levied against him ahead of the 2017 NFL draft.
Conley had been sued for civil assault and battery in Cuyahoga County, and filed a countersuit against his accuser, Brooke Puscian, for malicious prosecution. According to court records filed online late Monday, the jury ruled in Conley’s favor in both matters and awarded him $300 in damages, which is all he requested, in a case that he said was more about vindication than money.
“While many high-profile defendants look to quickly settle these types of claims, I took the unusual step of filing a counterclaim for malicious prosecution because I was wrongfully accused and wanted justice,” Conley said in a statement released by his attorney.
“While the allegations against me cost me millions of dollars, my counterclaim was never about recovering money from my accuser. It was about clearing my name and restoring my reputation.”
The civil case stems from allegations that Conley raped Puscian in a hotel room on April 9, 2017 – a few weeks before he was projected to be a potential top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. Puscian filed a report with police, who investigated the claims, and Conley ended up slipping to the back end of the first round after the investigation became public; the Raiders selected him 24th overall.
Conley, who played collegiately at Ohio State, was not arrested and ultimately did not face criminal charges after a grand jury declined to indict him in July 2017.
In the absence of criminal charges, Puscian later filed a civil lawsuit against Conley, the sports agency representing him and the hotel in downtown Cleveland at which the alleged assault occurred. Then, rather than settle the case, Conley filed a countersuit in the summer of 2018.
The case finally reached a conclusion Thursday – at the end of a 10-day trial, and more than five years after the allegations first became public.
“I am grateful and relieved to finally be fully exonerated,” Conley said in his statement. “To the eight jurors who spent weeks carefully considering all of the evidence, thank you for your service and respect for the justice system.”
Now 27, Conley started 28 games (including the playoffs) over parts of three seasons with the Raiders and Houston Texans but has not appeared in an NFL game since Jan. 12, 2020.
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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