SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Australian Rugby League veteran Jarryd Hayne, who played the 2015 NFL (National Football League) season for the San Francisco 49ers, was accused of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed on Tuesday (Dec 19), according to multiple reports.
The San Jose Mercury-News and sports news website Deadspin reported details of the lawsuit against Hayne, now back in his home town of Sydney, by a woman identified only as "Ms V" who alleged Hayne engaged in non-consensual sexual intercourse with her in December 2015, lawyer John Clune told the newspaper.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office reviewed the criminal case and rejected it for insufficient evidence in October 2016, the Mercury-News reported, declining to provide more details.
Sexual assaults reported weeks or months after they allegedly occurred can prove difficult to prosecute because physical evidence is often gone by the time an investigation begins.
Hayne, 29, was charged with sexual battery, gender violence, infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The lawsuit said Ms V had been a virgin and did not come forward for several months before eventually seeking medical treatment for continued vaginal pain in April 2016.
The hospital where she sought treatment concluded she was sexually assaulted and contacted San Jose police as required by law, said Micha Star Liberty, another attorney for Ms V, who finally spoke with police in May 2016.
"The victim was a young impressionable woman out with friends in a location and environment she thought she could trust only to find that Mr Hayne used her level of intoxication and his physical stature to deprive her of the ability to make a personal decision about whether or not she wanted to have sex," Liberty told the Mercury-News.
"As a result, she suffered greatly emotionally and physically."
Hayne and Ms V had mutual acquaintances but no relationship, Liberty said.
But on the night of the alleged rape, Ms. V and her friends met Hayne and his friends at a bar for after-dinner drinks.
Liberty said Ms V became intoxicated and Hayne took her back to his apartment in San Jose.
Ms V awoke the next morning in a large pool of blood and Hayne was gone.
"Having represented sexual assault victims for over 17 years, what we know is that the process of mustering the strength and courage to come forward and speak out takes time," Liberty said.
A Sydney law firm acting on behalf of Hayne said the athlete "unequivocally and vehemently denies" the allegations and had not been served with any proceedings or formal complaint relating to the incident.
The Madison Marcus Law Firm added that Hayne had "provided all reasonable assistance" to the District Attorney for the investigation.
Hayne's National Rugby League (NRL) club, the Parramatta Eels, said they were "unaware of these allegations until they were made public today".
Eels chairman Max Donnelly, describing the claims as serious, added in a statement that the club would follow due process and review all the relevant information available.
Hayne came to the 49ers from Australia in 2015 as a punt returner.
He appeared in San Francisco's first six games, was released, and then returned for the team's two final NFL games that season.
Hayne has a Fijian father, and after a failed bid to make the Fiji Olympic Rugby Sevens squad, he returned to Australia and played for the NRL's Gold Coast Titans before re-signing with the Eels, with whom he made his fame from 2006 to 2014.
He did switch allegiance to Fiji for the Rugby League World Cup last month, helping them to reach the semi-finals.