DA drops charges against student athletes accused of sexual assault

ATLANTA — A local district attorney has dropped all charges against three former student athletes accused of sexual assault, Channel 2 Action News confirmed.

In an exclusive TV interview with investigative reporter Aaron Diamant, the Fulton County District Attorney gave a detailed explanation for not only why he decided not to prosecute the former Morehouse students, but also why it took him nearly a year to file the order in court.

The former basketball players are accused of sexually assaulting a Spelman College student in 2013.

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All three, whose names have been removed from this article because their charges were dropped, faced serious felony charges.

"I would not characterize what they did as innocent," Paul Howard said. "Let me tell you, I had a lot of reservations about dismissing it. The young lady involved suffered greatly because of the incident."

But Howard said he had no choice but to drop the charges.

"What we discovered is that we had a victim who voluntarily ingested drugs and alcohol," Howard said.

Howard said witnesses reported the young woman remained conscious and made decisions prior to the alleged assault.

But the investigation never concluded the female student consented to sex with the players.

"Based upon the circumstances, they might not have been able to tell that she was not giving them her consent," Howard said.

Either way, all three men had maintained their innocence. One player's lawyer told Diamant he's livid this dismissal order Howard signed back in May 2015 wasn't filed in court until May of this year.

"He couldn't get a job. Every time he applied for a job, that stigma of being charged with a sex offense, they denied him everything, so it was devastating for him," defense attorney Jackie Patterson said.

Howard said the men should just feel lucky the case isn't moving forward.

"My client is not lucky, my client is innocent. If Paul Howard thought he was guilty, he should have prosecuted him instead of having his life put on hold," Patterson said.

Howard told Diamant his office has exhausted all legal options and has no plans to file lesser charges against the former students.