Prosecutors drop sex assault charge against Pan Am athlete: lawyer
Players from Canada and Brazil during the first half of men's soccer action at the Pan Am Games in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, July 12, 2015. (Peter Power/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 26, 2016 11:13AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 26, 2016 12:29PM EST
TORONTO -- Prosecutors have dropped a sexual assault charge against a soccer player who competed for the Brazilian team in last summer's Pan Am Games in Toronto, but his lawyer says the athlete's reputation has already taken a significant hit.
The charge against Lucas Domingues Piazon, 21, was dismissed Tuesday morning because there was no reasonable prospect of conviction, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said.
He said Toronto police knew the dismissal was inevitable and were wrong to needlessly tarnish the reputation of an international soccer star.
Piazon, who plays for Reading on loan from Chelsea, has lived "under a cloud of global suspicion" since the Oct. 29 news conference announcing the charge, his lawyer said.
"The charge ought never to have gone forward against Mr. Piazon because they knew, when that press conference took place, they knew the charge would never proceed to trial," he said.
"It was wrong, it was mean-spirited, it was simply something that ought never to have taken place."
Toronto police at the time announced that warrants had been issued for Piazon and Andrey Da Silva Ventura, 22, who both played for the Brazilian soccer team in the Pan Am Games.
Piazon was sought on an Ontario warrant, meaning he could be arrested if he returned to the province.
Ventura, who is currently still playing in Brazil, would have to go through a lengthy process to be returned to Canada to face charges since there is no extradition treaty with that country.
Police confirmed Tuesday the charge against Piazon had been dropped but said the one against Ventura was still outstanding.
Asked about Greenspan's allegations that police proceeded with the charges knowing the case would not go to trial, police spokesman Mark Pugash would only say the force would "look into the matter."
Both involved an alleged sexual assault against a 21-year-old woman, who police said met the two athletes at a popular downtown spot.
Police said the four returned to a private home and the victim was allegedly sexually assaulted on July 25 after she had fallen asleep.
The soccer players were not the only Brazilian athletes accused of sex crimes while taking part in the Pan Am Games.
Police also have an active warrant out for Thye Mattos Ventura Bezerra, a 27-year-old water polo player accused of committing a similar offence on July 16.
Police allege Bezerra sexually assaulted a 22-year-old woman as she slept in the bedroom of her downtown apartment.