CARDIFF, Wales (AP) A former English Premier League player was found not guilty of rape on Friday following a retrial, ending a five-year case.
Ched Evans, a Wales international who has played for Manchester City and Sheffield United, wept and hugged his fiancee after the verdict was given at Cardiff Crown Court.
The 27-year-old Evans admitted to having sex with a teenager in a hotel in north Wales in May 2011 but always insisted it was consensual. He was convicted of rape in April 2012 and released from prison after serving half of his five-year sentence.
The rape conviction was overturned in April following an appeal.
A jury of seven women and five men found Evans not guilty following three hours of deliberations after the eight-day trial.
Evans and his partner stood outside court with supporters as his solicitor read a statement on behalf of Evans.
“That incident did not involve the commission of a criminal offense,” the statement said, “and today I am overwhelmed with relief that the jury agreed.
“Thanks go, too, to my friends and family,” it added, “most notably my fiancee, Natasha, who chose, perhaps incredibly, to support me in my darkest hour. Whilst my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question.”
Evans plays for third-tier club Chesterfield, who signed him in June despite a public outcry when he attempted to return to professional soccer with other clubs while his appeal was being heard.