When Judge Steven Everett acquitted former Manchester City footballer Benjamin Mendy of one count of rape and one count of attempted rape charges at Chester Crown Court this past Friday, many onlookers were bowled over by the verdict as a result of the weight of the allegations brought to the fore.
Mendy was accused of raping a 24-year-old woman at his £4 million mansion in Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire in October 2020, and also accused of the attempted rape of a 29-year-old woman, who alleged that the 28-year-old Frenchman had also molested her at his home two years earlier.
These allegations plus six counts of rape and one count of sexual assault against a number of women landed the 2018 World Cup winner behind bars, where he spent 134 days earning just £ 4 a day in food allowance.
The court remanded him in custody in August 2021 but granted him bail in January 2022, placing him under six months of house arrest at his luxury mansion while on trial.
In his first trial which lasted for six months, Mendy denied the charges and said the incidents were consensual encounters.
"I was direct about what I wanted and direct about what they wanted," said Mendy at his rape trial last November.
"At the time I was not thinking, like, if they could be upset. If they wanted sex and I wanted sex, it was fine. I was carrying on with my party.
"I was enjoying sex with a lot of women. Most of the time it was them coming onto me but sometimes I go to them."
After much deliberations, the Frenchman was cleared by a jury of six counts of rape and one count of sexual assault, relating to four young women or teenagers.
However, the jurors failed to reach verdicts on two counts, of rape and attempted rape, leading to his retrial in June.
At Mendy's re-trial, prosecutors told the jury that the 28-year-old enjoyed hosting parties and social gatherings at his home and on two occasions “took advantage” of his female guests.
They claimed his wealth and celebrity status turned him into a sexual "predator" not used to being told “No” by women.
The first complainant, a 29-year-old student, who first met Mendy while in a nightclub in Barcelona in late 2017 and became intimate with one of his friends, alleged that Mendy tried to rape her after a night out.
But the footballer told the jury: "I asked her if we are OK to have sex. She told me, 'No' because of my friend.
"I was like, 'It's fine, my friend says it's OK, so if you want, he's OK with that.
"It's when she started to be like that - upset, sad. I just left the room."
Another complainant, a 24-year-old, told the trial that ex-City left-back took her phone from her and led her to a locked bedroom in his home, where he raped her despite her telling him she did not want to have sex.
The jury then asked whether he had held her down or forced her onto the bed and he replied: "No. I will never force you to have sex with a woman."
Having heard from the complainants and the defendant, the jury of six men and six women deliberated for about three hours and 15 minutes before reaching their conclusion.
The jury foreman read out the not-guilty verdicts following a three-week trial at Chester Crown Court and the former Monaco defender broke down in tears.
Judge Steven Everett then said: "Mr Mendy can be discharged from the dock."
But alas, the damage had been done in the court of public opinion despite the acquittal.
The long legal battle dragged Mendy's reputation through the mud and also left his future in football uncertain.
History indicates that sportsmen who have been accused of rape or attempted rape never get to have a clean slate, even though they are found innocent.
This is because some persons or groups belong to the school of thought that believes being found not guilty still doesn't mean the person is innocent because many cases of rape or attempted rape are very difficult to back up with evidence.
A litmus example of a footballer who was recently alienated because of this school of thought is Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood.
He went from being the poster boy at United to becoming a polarising figure in the public eye as a result of the rape and assault of his ex-girlfriend.
Even when all charges against Greenwood were dropped, a section of United supporters admonished the club to boot him out without dealing with the fallout of his allegations, which surfaced online in January 2022.
This resulted in the 21-year-old, who has two years left on his contract at Old Trafford, disappearing from the public domain due to reputational damages.
So, for Mendy, it is certain that he will never be able to escape the rape allegations irrespective of the ruling of the court.
The layman will always see him as the playboy football star who forced himself on women whenever his name is mentioned in football environments. Not even a torrent of rainfall will be able to wash away such a perception.
Moving forward, it is important that football authorities speak with one voice against false rape accusations as a way to prevent the lives and careers of many footballers from being ruined forever.
Today, it is Benjamin Mendy who is in the news, but tomorrow who knows whose name will make headlines for the wrong reasons?