Ohio State defensive back Gareon Conley runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine Monday, March 6, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
By: Ana Kieu
The Oakland Raiders drafted Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley in the first round with the 24th overall pick during the 2017 NFL Draft.
Getting drafted should be a joyous moment for both the player and his new NFL team, but this wasn’t the case for Conley. Just days before Conley was selected by the Raiders, a 23-year-old woman accused him of raping her at a Cleveland hotel on April 9. She claimed that she met Conley in an elevator at 3 a.m. and he propositioned her and another woman to have a foursome. She also claimed that Conley had sex with her after watching another couple have sex. The case remains ongoing as Conley denied her allegations.
Conley’s lawyer said that he won’t talk to Cleveland police until after the draft. Conley went through an interview and submitted his DNA on Monday, according to his attorney Kevin Spellacy. Spellacy also said that he’s been trying to obtain video surveillance from the Westin Hotel, but his attempts have been unsuccessful so far. Two of Conley’s friends told the police that nothing happened between Conley and the unnamed woman, who got upset when they asked her to leave.
Despite all the negativity, Conley is ecstatic about being selected in the first round of the draft. He sent out a tweet last Thursday, giving shoutouts to his Ohio State teammates, cornerback Marshon Lattimore (New Orleans Saints, first round, 11th overall pick) and safety Malik Hooker (Indianapolis Colts, first round, 15th overall pick).
Conley also retweeted tweets from quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end and linebacker Khalil Mack.
It’s clear the Raiders got what they wanted. They were looking for an upgrade at the cornerback position. Conley’s draft position called for a $5.8 million signing bonus on top of a four-year rookie contract worth $10.5 million. However, his draft value can decrease and that’s not a good thing.
Conley had doubts about his NFL future, but he knows that he must take responsibility for his actions. He said that he didn’t know what he was getting himself into at the time and could’ve used his judgement to make better decisions. When he got drafted, things felt surreal and he felt much more special.
Conley’s storyline doesn’t consist of him being an entitled athlete who vanished in the big leagues. He’s a humble man who attended Massillon Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio. He finished his high school career with 50 receptions, 25 tackles, 16 touchdowns on offense and an interception on defense. He also visits his high school occasionally to tell students about the significance of coaching and doing things the correct way.
Conley initially committed to the University of Michigan, but later switched to the Ohio State University. In 2013, he reshirted his freshman year. In 2014, he played in all 15 games, recording 16 tackles. In 2015, he started all 13 games, recording 49 tackles and two interceptions. In 2016, he was named the Second Team All-Big Ten and Third Team. He forwent his senior year to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
Not many residents in Conley’s hometown of Massillon express doubt in him.
Washington High offensive coach Joe Pierce said that Conley wasn’t the best player in his junior year as he slowed down due to a broken arm, but continued to excel on defense. As a senior, Conley caught 51 passes for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns in addition to being a top-rated defensive back.
Former defensive back Dan Hackenbracht said that Conley’s self-discipline and dedication set him apart from others, adding that he also studied film at a different level.
Conley’s stepmother provided a financial incentive to her son to play college football. She has a daughter named Dajia who had a lower chance of attending college at no cost due to the fact that she’s a cheerleader. Conley ended up obtaining his dream scholarship.
Besides, the rape allegation against Conley might not even be true. Both Conley and the female accuser admitted they were in the same hotel room, but he already took a polygraph test and passed it before the draft.
A recent video posted online shows the accuser following him inside and outside a Cleveland bar and even reaching out to touch him.
No charges have been filed against Conley. He maintained his innocence throughout the process. Yes, he could be indicted, despite passing a polygraph test. However, these are two separate issues — whether he’s telling the truth and whether the evidence would allow a prescutor to indict him.
The process demands for a one-sided introduction of evidence with the defendant having no representation. The legal standard for an indictment is lower than the standard required for a conviction. The prosecutor has to convince the grand jury that probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed. The fact that the defendant has nobody arguing the opposite position makes it easy to receive an indictment.
Many people believe that a judge has the most power within the justice system, but the truth is that the prosecutor does. He decides who gets charged, who doesn’t get charged and what they both get charged with. If this prosecutor decides that the victim told the truth and that the defendant didn’t or if he simply decides to turn the defendant’s life upside down, an indictment can be acquired.
Yet, there are two factors that could influence the process, and that’s when the victim was administered a rape kit and Conley has agreed to provide a DNA sample. Nothing happened between Conley and the victim, according to his defense along with the witnesses in the hotel room.
Conley is innocent until proven guilty.