USC Quarterback Won't Face Sexual Assault Charges

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Los Angeles County prosecutors have declined to file charges against USC freshman quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was arrested in April in connection with an alleged sexual assault.

Authorities decided not to bring a case against the 19-year-old athlete because there was a "lack of sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt," Deputy District Attorney Richard Taklender wrote in a document explaining why charges weren't filed.

A female student, who is also 19, alleged that Sanchez sexually assaulted her in the early morning hours of April 26 at the Cardinal Gardens apartment complex near campus.

But medical exams proved inconclusive on the issue of force, making the case "essentially a `one-on-one' allegation," according to the prosecutor.

In a statement released by USC, Sanchez said, "From the outset of this investigation, I've been confident that the facts would come to light and that investigators would confirm that I was innocent of the allegation against me."

Sanchez said he was "grateful to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the LAPD detectives for their diligence in pursuing the truth and taking the time necessary to make the right decision.

"I also would like to thank my family, my fellow players, our coaching staff, the USC family and all of the people that stood by me during this very difficult time," he said.

The 6-foot-4 inch, 215-pound graduate of Mission Viejo High School said he was looking forward to continuing his education at USC and "being a positive contributor to our school, student body and team."

In a charge evaluation worksheet, the prosecutor said the woman admitted to "consensual kissing and petting" in bed and taking off her shirt and bra after Sanchez had entirely disrobed.

She also acknowledged staying in bed with Sanchez after he repeatedly tried to have sex with her, according to the prosecutor.

A couple who were in the next room during the alleged assault were unaware of any problem, according to the prosecutor.

Afterward, the woman spent 20 minutes with the couple and "did nothing to convey through words or conduct that she had been assaulted," Taklender wrote.

Sanchez had been placed on interim suspension following his arrest. The suspension was lifted about two weeks ago and he had enrolled in summer school but had still been barred from practicing with the team, according to his attorney, Leonard B. Levine.

USC head football Coach Pete Carroll said in a statement that he was "glad to hear that this is behind Mark and that he has been exonerated."

"This was a trying process for him. An accusation like this is so damaging, because opinions are formed before all the facts are in," Carroll said. "Mark is a great kid. His actions always have been exemplary, and I know they'll continue to be so in the future.

"We've always worked hard to do the right things in our program," the coach added. "Mark regretted that this situation reflected poorly on him, his family and his teammates. I know he'll work hard to put this behind him. He can now concentrate on his school work and on preparing to compete for the quarterback job in the fall."

Sanchez still faces possible disciplinary action from USC for alleged underage drinking and use of a fake ID, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sanchez's arrest marked the latest in a series of legal troubles for USC football players.

In March 2005, cornerback Eric Wright was arrested on suspicion of rape, but no charges were filed.

In August 2004, police investigated another alleged sexual assault at Cardinal Gardens, where the football team stayed during training camp, but no arrests were made.

Also in 2004, offensive lineman Winston Justice pleaded guilty to exhibiting a replica firearm, a misdemeanor, and was suspended by USC, missing two semesters.

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