An Eagles offensive lineman has been indicted by a grand jury on rape and kidnapping charges, Ohio prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Josh Sills, 25, was charged in Guernsey County, Ohio, after prosecutors said he forcibly restrained and raped a woman in December 2019.
The incident was immediately reported, and the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office conducted a “detailed investigation,” according to a statement from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which is heading the prosecution.
The National Football League said in a statement Wednesday that Sills had been placed on the “Commissioner Exempt List,” and barred from practices, games, or travel with the team until further notice.
The criminal case was presented to a grand jury, which recommended the first-degree felony charges, and the indictment was filed Tuesday. Sills has not been arrested but rather has been summoned to appear in court Feb. 16.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the case.
Sills’ lawyer, Michael Connick, said the allegations were false and that Sills would “aggressively” contest the charges. He declined to comment further.
According to an incident report, the woman, who was 21 years old at the time, had known Sills for nearly eight years and had gone to high school with him.
Late one night, the woman said, Sills drove her and her cousin to her cousin’s house, but as the woman tried to get out of Sills’ truck, he grabbed her by her ponytail and pulled her back inside. The report says the cousin unknowingly went inside the house.
Sills attempted to forcibly kiss the woman, even as she told him to stop, the report said, and he tried to remove her clothes.
At one point, another car pulled up behind them, and Sills pushed the woman by her neck, down into the seat, so no one could see them, according to the report.
Sills then sexually assaulted the woman, the report said. Afterward, the woman said, she begged him to let her go, but Sills would not until she agreed to talk to him again, according to the report.
The woman immediately went to the hospital, where doctors found injuries consistent with sexual assault including bruising on her neck, throat, and knee. She reported the incident to police that night, and deputies started investigating.
Sills, who is from Sarahsville, Ohio, was signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent last year, and played college football at West Virginia University and Oklahoma State University. The incident occurred when Sills would have been a student at WVU.
The charges come just days after the Eagles clinched the NFC championship to compete in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 12.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the Eagles said the organization “is aware of the legal matter” involving Sills.
“We have been in communication with the league office and are in the process of gathering more information,” the statement said. “We have no further comment at this time.”
Sills’ agent did not return a phone call requesting comment Wednesday.
Sills has played in just one game this season, and he was listed as inactive, or a healthy scratch, for both playoff games.
He was one of three undrafted free agents to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster, and was celebrated by General Manager Howie Roseman for his size and strength. He has only appeared in four special-teams snaps, all of which were during the Eagles’ victory against the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the season.
The Eagles have nine offensive linemen on the active roster, including Sills.
The NFL has long faced criticism over how it has handled allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence lodged against players.
Most recently, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson resumed his career following his 11-game suspension imposed by the league after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.
The Browns signed Watson to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract, after two Texas grand juries declined to indict him. Watson, who has denied the allegations, settled civil lawsuits with 23 of his accusers last summer, and two lawsuits remain ongoing. Some legal experts and victims’ advocates have said the NFL’s punishment was too lenient and did not address the seriousness of the allegations.
In 2016, Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a dancer at a South Philadelphia strip club, but prosecutors declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence. He remained on the team and now plays for the New England Patriots.
The findings of a study released last year — titled “More Talent, More Leeway: Do Violence Against Women Arrests Really Hurt NFL Player Careers?” — suggested that a player’s “worth” on the field influences team decisions about the direction of his career after allegations of abuse, and that teams may be more likely to cut ties with, or make an example out of, a lower-performing player compared to a star or even a mid-roster athlete.
UltraViolet, a gender and women’s empowerment advocacy group, on Wednesday called on the Eagles to immediately suspend Sills and criticized NFL leadership’s track record on the issue.
“Sexual abusers have no place playing in professional sports — and certainly not on the world’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl,” the group said in a statement.
Staff writer Josh Tolentino contributed to this story.