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Browns rookie Caleb Brantley cleared of battery complaint by Florida's state attorney due to "no reliable evidence"

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    Caleb Brantley walks off the field during an NFL football rookie minicamp Friday in Berea.



Rookie defensive tackle Caleb Brantley won’t face prosecution following an investigation in Florida, freeing him to move forward with his Browns career.

The Florida State’s Attorney Office announced Wednesday it won’t pursue a misdemeanor battery charge, dismissing a sworn complaint by Gainesville police following an incident last month at a Gainesville bar.

“It is apparent that there is no reliable evidence upon which an arrest or prosecution would be warranted or legally justified,” the news release stated.

Brantley, who starred at the University of Florida in Gainesville, was projected to be a second- or third-round pick before the incident in which he was accused of punching a woman in the face. The Browns drafted him with pick No. 185 to start the sixth round and were widely criticized.

Executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said immediately after the pick Brantley could be released if new information surfaced. But he felt the risk was worth the reward at that point in the draft.

“Based on our information, we understood there was a reasonable chance that the charges would be dismissed,” Brown said Wednesday in a statement. “The allegations made regarding the incident were not something we take lightly.

“Caleb understands that we have an expectation and standard for every member of our organization. He’s a talented young man with a great opportunity in front of him. Caleb must grow as a person from this situation.”

Brantley (6-foot-3, 307 pounds) participated in the rookie minicamp last weekend and said how thankful he was to the Browns for giving him a chance.

“I’m grateful for today’s ruling,” he said in a statement. “I won’t take the opportunity the Browns have given me for granted and now I can shift all my focus on working hard to make this football team while also showing my teammates, coaches, the organization and this community the type of person I really am.”

Chelsea Austin accused Brantley of punching her in the face, knocking her unconscious and dislodging a tooth. Because of the public nature of the case, the State’s Attorney Office provided the reasons for dismissing the complaint.

The release stated: The alleged victim had been drinking “heavily,” has “little to no memory” of the incident and cannot provide credible testimony; witnesses on her behalf had been drinking and provided contradictory testimony that “calls into serious question” the accuracy of their statements; their testimony was “significantly contradicted” by Brantley, witnesses on his behalf and a neutral witness; and reports of a significant injury to the alleged victim are “inaccurate” and any injury was “relatively minor and inconsistent with any great force having been used against her.”

“The facts suggest that the alleged victim’s friends engaged Brantley in an unpleasant verbal exchange, during which the alleged victim began to physically punch or assault Brantley, causing him to shove her away,” the State’s Attorney Office said. “It is legally clear that under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law Brantley had the legal right to defend himself by pushing away someone who was punching and assaulting him.”

During rookie minicamp, Brantley said the criticism directed at him over the last month left a chip on his shoulder.

“I’m just going to go out and prove everybody wrong who said bad things about me, said I have character issues and all of that,” he said. “I feel like I’m a genuine great person. I’m just out here playing football, the game that I love, trying to take care of my mom and my brother.”

Brantley joins third-round pick Larry Ogunjobi as additions to the interior of the line. Brantley was a two-year starter for the Gators, totaling 5½ sacks.

“I just think I can bring an aggressive style of play to this defense, playmaking ability, somewhat of a unique skill set along the D-line,” he said.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

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