What we know about the sexual assault lawsuit against Antonio Brown

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Brown was accused of rape and sexual assault on Sept. 10.

All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused of raping and sexually assaulting his former trainer in a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in a Florida federal court.

The suit claims Brown assaulted Britney Taylor in three separate incidents between 2017 and 2018. Taylor, a former college gymnast who met Brown when the two were both students at Central Michigan University and later served as his personal trainer, has come forward publicly with her accusation. She explained her decision in a statement released by her lawyer, David Haas.

“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision. I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault. Speaking out removes the shame that I have felt for the past year and places it on the person responsible for my rape. I will cooperate with the NFL and any other agencies; however, at this time, I respectfully request that the media please respect my privacy.”

Here’s what we know so far:

The allegations against Antonio Brown

According to the lawsuit, Taylor first met Brown in 2010 at Central Michigan. The pair maintained an on-and-off friendship over the following years as Brown moved on to the NFL and Taylor transferred to Louisiana State University to continue her gymnastics career. This connection led the wide receiver to hire Taylor as a personal trainer in the summer of 2017. She alleges the first assault took place soon after in one of his Pittsburgh-area homes.

Taylor’s suit claims that, weeks later, Brown sexually assaulted her again. According to Taylor, he later referenced the incident in text messages included in the legal filing. She claims this resulted in the two terminating their business and personal relationship.

Taylor began working for Brown again in April 2018, under the condition the two keep their working relationship entirely professional. She also expanded her role beyond training and handled personal assistant duties for a player whose life was deemed “apparent chaos” in Taylor’s lawsuit. On May 20, 2018, she claims Brown physically overpowered and raped her.

Taylor is suing Brown for compensation for her “physical injuries, pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, loss of self esteem and self-confidence, and emotional pain and suffering.” It also seeks “an award of punitive damages, in an amount to be determined at trial, sufficient to deter [Brown] from engaging in future illegal and/or wrongful conduct.”

It is not yet clear whether Taylor reported her accusations to police in either Pennsylvania or Florida. Brown is not currently facing criminal charges related to this civil suit, though Pennsylvania police have reportedly been in contact with Taylor regarding the 2017 encounters. No charges can be filed related to either incident, however, as the two-year statute of limitations for prosecution has since expired.

Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, federal judge Rodney Smith has been selected to oversee this case.

What Antonio Brown is saying in response

Through his lawyer, Darren Heitner, Brown has denied any wrongdoing and claims he and his accuser engaged in consensual sex. He also alluded to a potential countersuit to clear his name.

Mr. Brown denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit. He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name, but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations.

Brown’s legal team also alleged the civil suit may be motivated by a supposed decision not to invest $1.6 million in a business project Taylor had brought to his attention.

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN he and his client had been anticipating the lawsuit and that he takes it very seriously, but that he is not guilty of the accusations by Taylor.

“These allegations are false,” said Rosenhaus. “[Brown] denies every one of them. I’m confident his legal team has facts that will prove this.

“Antonio will cooperate. With the Patriots. With the NFL. With any investigation with the NFLPA. And, in time, Antonio will be cleared.”

Taylor reportedly approached Brown with an opportunity to settle the matter privately in exchange for more than $2 million. The receiver, per ESPN, rejected this offer at approximately the same time he decided to sign his one-year contract with New England.

What could happen next with the NFL

Brown’s current employer, the New England Patriots, issued a statement saying they are aware of the accusations against their player, but have no comment while the league begins its formal investigation into the matter.

“We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio’s representatives. We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.”

“Both Antonio and his representatives have made statements,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the press. “I’m not going to be expanding on any of those. They are what they are. The situation, we’re taking it very seriously all the way through the organization. I’m sure you have questions, but I’m not going to be discussing any of that.”

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, New England had no prior knowledge of this impending legal action before signing Brown to a one-year contract following his release by the Oakland Raiders.

The NFL has yet to make an official statement on the lawsuit. Heitner told ESPN’s Michael Eaves that he had not yet been contacted by the league as of the evening of Sept. 10. Taylor is planning to meet with league officials sometime in the week after filing her lawsuit.

An unnamed second player, who is mentioned in Taylor’s suit as being in the house at the time of the rape, will also be compelled to participate in the league investigation. According to a Pro Football Talk report, that player is Ravens rookie Marquise Brown, a cousin of Antonio’s. There are no accusations against Marquise Brown.

One option for the NFL is adding Brown to its exempt list as it mulls potential discipline. If that happens, he’ll be ineligible to play for an undisclosed amount of time, though he’d still be able to collect league paychecks during that span. For now, the league has opted against that route due to the allegations being levied in a civil trial.

Brown will also be subject to the league’s personal conduct policy, pending the results of its investigation. The NFL issues a baseline six-game suspension for first-time offenders of its policy, though it could take other factors into account. Per SI’s Robert Klemko, police were dispatched to investigate domestic incidents involving Brown and women with whom he’s fathered children.

There was also another sexual misconduct allegation involving a painter Brown had hired. Klemko reported that in the days following his story, Brown sent the painter “intimidating” text messages, which her lawyer then forwarded to the NFL. The league investigators have now been involved.

While no charges were filed in any of those incidents, the NFL has previously handed down discipline in cases where prosecutors declined to take their case to court, most notably banning Ezekiel Elliott for six games in 2017.

Brown made his Patriots debut in Week 2, but his availability going forward remains a fluid situation.

We’ll have more updates as this story develops.

Read more at SB Nation.

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