Friend of Cleveland Browns player accused of sexual assault at players’ downtown apartment

August 28, 2018

Friend of Cleveland Browns player accused of sexual assault at players’ downtown apartment

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A 22-year-old woman accused the friend of a Cleveland Browns player of sexually assaulting her at two Browns players’ apartment at The 9 in downtown Cleveland.

She believed she was having sex with one of the players, police reports say. 

Neither Browns player — tight end David Njoku and wide receiver Rashard Higgins— was in the room at the time, and neither is accused of any wrongdoing.

Njoku’s friend, Kashwayne Nelson, who records say lives with both Njoku and Higgins, was arrested on suspicion of rape but ultimately was released from the jail. No charges have been filed in connection with the sexual assault.

The woman told police she did not want to press charges against Nelson because she didn’t want her family to find out about the incident. Cleveland police officers convinced her to go to MetroHealth for a sexual assault examination in case the woman decides to press charges later.

Nelson was charged with obstructing official business, and court records say he is considered a suspect in the sexual assault. Police said that Nelson lied to police by providing a fake identification card, according to police and court records.

A message left with Nelson was not returned. Court records do not list an attorney for Nelson. 

A Browns spokesman said in a statement that the team is aware of the incident and that both Njoku and Higgins will continue to cooperate with police. 

“Rashard immediately notified us of the situation and he and David fully cooperated with the police while being interviewed,” the statement said. “While our players were not the target of any allegations involving illegal activity, they understand the seriousness of the situation and we have expressed our concerns regarding the matter.”

The 22-year-old woman told police she was in town celebrating her birthday on Friday night and that she spent time with Nelson and Higgins at The 9. They split time drinking at the bar and going up to Higgins’ and Njoku’s apartment, police reports say.

Njoku did not drink and stayed at the apartment the entire night, police reports say.

The woman and two of her friends went to the Barley House with Higgins and Nelson. Higgins, the woman and Nelson went back to their apartment about 3 a.m.

Higgins left the apartment briefly after the woman fell asleep in Higgins’ bed, according to police reports.

The woman told police Nelson sneaked into Higgins’ room and had sex with her, according to police reports. The woman told police she believed Higgins had returned and didn’t realize it was Nelson until she heard his voice, according to police reports.

She demanded that he turn the lights on and realized it was Nelson in the bed and not Higgins. The Cleveland law department redacted what happened immediately after, citing a provision in the law that allows for redaction of description of sexual assaults.

The woman tried to call police but the man ripped the phone from her hand, pulling her hair in the process, police reports say. The woman eventually grabbed her phone, ran outside and called 911, police reports say.

Investigators interviewed both Browns players and Nelson, according to police reports.

Higgins told police he met Nelson when he moved into Njoku’s apartment a few days prior. He said he believed Nelson was Njoku’s cousin, but Njoku told police he was just his friend.

Higgins said Nelson brought the woman and two other girls to their apartment that night. His version of events mirror the woman’s. Higgins said he left the apartment because he couldn’t sleep and that the woman had called police by the time he returned home.

Njoku said he spent the night in his room and didn’t hang out with anyone. He said he didn’t know the woman and that Nelson was his friend.

Part of the police interview of Nelson was also redacted by the city law department. He initially gave officers an Ohio identification card that belonged to someone else. He told police that the woman was in his bedroom, but when officers asked him to describe where his room was in the apartment, he “got very disoriented and kept saying different rooms,” police reports say.

Nelson refused to speak with the officers after they read him his Miranda rights, according to police reports. The officers arrested Nelson and booked him into the Cuyahoga County Jail. He was released on a personal bond Monday after he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Cleveland Municipal Court. 

Investigators collected the rape kit from the hospital and the bed sheets for evidence, police reports say.

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