Prosecutors dismissed a misdemeanor battery complaint against Cleveland Browns sixth-round pick Caleb Brantley, a defensive tackle from Florida, citing insufficient evidence.
“It is apparent that there is no reliable evidence upon which an arrest or prosecution would be warranted or legally justified,” the office of State Attorney William Cervone said in a news release Wednesday announcing that it would not bring charges against Brantley. Cervone said the decision was made after interviews with the woman who made the complaint and other witnesses.
“I’m grateful for today’s ruling,” Brantley said in a statement released by the Browns. “I won’t take the opportunity the Browns have given me for granted and now I can shift all my focus on working hard to make this football team while also showing my teammates, coaches, the organization and this community the type of person I really am.”
A Gainesville police affidavit had said that Brantley and the woman were arguing shortly after 2 a.m. on April 13 when she pushed him. The affidavit said Brantley responded by hitting the woman in the face.
The Browns had raised some eyebrows when they drafted Brantley last month. He led the Gators with 9 1/2 tackles for loss and had 2 1/2 sacks and declared for the NFL following his junior season. Brantley was at rookie camp with the Browns last week.
Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations, said in a statement that “based on our information, we understood there was a reasonable chance that the charges would be dismissed.”
“As we have previously discussed, the allegations made regarding the incident were not something we take lightly,” Brown said. “Caleb understands that we have an expectation and standard for every member of our organization. He’s a talented young man with a great opportunity in front of him. Caleb must grow as a person from this situation. He is now able to move forward and focus on earning a spot on this roster.”
Cervone said the woman who was in the dispute had been drinking heavily and was initially uncooperative and denied having been assaulted. Cervone added that she “has little to no memory of anything involved in the incident and cannot provide any credible testimony upon which a prosecution could go forward.”
Cervone also said witnesses had been drinking as well and provided contradictory testimony. He said one “apparently neutral” witness supported Brantley’s version of the events. And he noted that any injury that resulted from the incident was “relatively minor and inconsistent with any great force having been used against her.”
“In essence, the facts suggest that the alleged victim’s friends engaged Brantley in an unpleasant verbal exchange, during which the alleged victim began to physically punch or assault Brantley, causing him to shove her away,” Cervone said.
He added that Florida’s “stand your ground” law gave Brantley “the legal right to defend himself by pushing away someone who was punching and assaulting him.”
“While it may not be popularly approved of or morally appropriate, that the alleged victim is a female of smaller stature than he does not change that,” Cervone said.
Brandi Thomas, a lawyer representing the woman, called Cervone’s ruling “disappointing” and said her client would “consider other options to legally pursue justice.” Thomas said her client “still suffers significant injuries caused by Mr. Brantley, both physically and emotionally.”
“We understand that the laws in the state of Florida require the state to investigate a potential stand-your-ground defense prior to filing charges,” Thomas said. “The burden on the state oftentimes makes it difficult for them to pursue charges.”
Brantley’s lawyer, Amy Osteryoung, issued a statement praising Cervone’s decision.
“It is obvious that the State Attorney’s Office did a thorough investigation into this case,” Osteryoung said. “It should be equally apparent that we agree with his decision.”