A former Ohio State running back avoided spending the next few decades in prison after being acquitted of raping an ex-girlfriend who admitted she lied about the assault after they broke up.

Bri’onte Dunn refused to plea to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault to a Franklin County, Ohio court, maintaining that alleged 2017 rape never took place and insisting on his innocence. He faced up to 22 years in prison if convicted.

“These are very difficult cases because rape is a horrible crime, a heinous crime,” said his attorney Joe Landusky after the trial had ended. “It’s just something that he didn’t do.”

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Dunn and the unnamed woman dated briefly last year after meeting on a dating app, the Columbus Dispatch reported, and he admitted they had a consensual sexual relationship. However, it had ended by Aug. 20. Around 4 a.m., he called her, asking her for a ride. When she picked him up, she took him to her apartment to wait for an Uber car. But instead, she said Dunn climbed into her bed and raped her.

But in court she testified that he had tried to initiate sexual contact with her, but he stopped when she spurned her. In the morning, he woke up and left. That day she reported the incident and underwent a sexual assault exam. However, she later recanted saying no forceable act happened. Dunn maintained his innocence all along.

The woman also came clean about contacting Dunn excessively after the alleged incident. She reached out to him at least 27 times with the expectation of an apology. “If I believed he was really sorry about it, I wouldn’t have reported it,” she testified.

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After three hours the jury concluded that Dunn was innocent. But during their deliberation, prosecutors slid Dunn a plea deal of a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault. He left that deal on the table, and continued to proclaim his innocence.

“My client has categorically rejected that offer,” said Joe Landusky, Dunn’s attorney.

“My client has told me, and I even asked him, ‘If they offer a minor misdemeanor disorderly conduct and suspended all fines and costs, would you take a deal?’ He says no and his reason for that is because he is an innocent man. He’s not just presumed innocent but actually innocent.”

Dunn was a backup running back for the Buckeyes from 2012 to 2015 when he was dismissed for violating team rules following an altercation with another girlfriend. He says he hopes this acquittal clears his name and wants to continue his football career, hoping to sign with the Alliance of American Football a new league scheduled to debut next year.

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“I’m happy that the whole world can see that I’m innocent,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back with my life, and hopefully renewing my career. I hope the coaches will understand that I’m an innocent man, like I am… I never thought an innocent man could get this far in the process.”

He declined to comment on his accuser.