Local football star charged with rape, AG’s Office won’t answer concerning questions

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By Staff Report

A football star, who has risen from the ranks of high school standout to the roster of the Philadelphia Eagles, has been charged in Guernsey County with one count of rape and one count of kidnapping from an incident that took place in late 2019.

The criminal case, which made national and international headlines, however, has strange coincidences, particularly as to the timing of the matter being brought to grand jury, which upon questioning by Y-City News has caused officials to decline to comment further, including choosing to not provide additional details. The incident, involving defendant Josh Sills, occurred in early December 2019, and was just recently presented to jurors, days before the Super Bowl, in which Sills was set to attend with his teammates, but was unlikely to play.

Numerous individuals have come forward saying that the victim, who we are choosing to not name, pressured the Ohio Attorney General’s Office into bringing charges before Sunday, February 12, after it is alleged that prosecutors at the office had declined to bring the case to a grand jury for lack of evidence. Sexual-based crimes are some of the most difficult to prosecute and the lack of criminal charges does not mean that an offense did not occur, regardless, sources alleged the victim or someone connected to her had threatened to go public, on social media and to the media, about the office’s inaction on the matter. Attorney General Dave Yost, a likely Republican contender for Governor in 2026, has been attempting to revamp his image after comments he made alleging that a 10-year-old Ohioan, who received an abortion in another state, after being raped, did not exist. The charges against Sills, which showcase Yost’s tough-on-crime approach to sex crime prosecutions, have helped bolster his and his office’s image nationally recently following the well-circulated debacle in mid-2022.

According to a press release by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Josh Sills, 25-years-old, was indicted by a Guernsey County Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 31, on one count of rape and one count of kidnapping. Sills is an offensive guard for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

A redacted police report made available via a public records request to the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office shows the alleged incident occurred at around 2 a.m. on December 5, 2019, after returning from RJs in Mt. Ephraim. The victim told a responding deputy that after her cousin got out of the vehicle and went inside the residence, where the victim was also staying, Sills ‘grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back into the truck.’ He then proceeded to grab ‘her by her ponytail and tried to kiss her.’

According to the deputy’s report, the victim repeatedly told Sills to stop during the encounter. At some point, another friend pulled up behind them and Sills is alleged to have grabbed the victim by the neck, throwing her down on the seat, preventing that friend from seeing that she, the victim, was also still in the vehicle along with Sills. After, Sills reportedly tried to take off the victim’s pants, unbuttoning them and touching her ‘down there.’ The girl says she repeatedly begged him to stop and to ‘let her go inside.’

Sills is then alleged to have taken off his pants and forced the victim’s face down to his privates. For ‘approximately 20 minutes,’ the victim says, Sills grabbed her by the hair and forced her to perform oral sex on him. After the incident, Sills is said to have tried to kiss the victim, asking if she would talk to him again, which she said she would. Following that, Sills is alleged to have grabbed the victim’s neck again and told her, ‘well you will talk to me again.’ She then reportedly got out of the vehicle and ran inside. The two had known each other since high school. The victim reportedly told one of her friends immediately after getting inside the residence.

Roughly twenty hours later, the victim went to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Room. A representative from Haven of Hope had called deputies to report the rape and request their assistance at the hospital. Many additional details have been redacted from the police report. The log shows that Sills’ DNA was collected that same day. Due to the delay in going to the hospital, the fact the victim ‘spit it back on him’ and the acidity of her stomach as well as that she likely brushed her teeth, it’s unlike any DNA match was able to be made. In the police report, the deputy reports that a nurse at the hospital discovered bruising in the back of the victim’s throat, on her inner lip, to her right ear and on the back of her left knee. The difficulty for law enforcement and prosecutors is that bruising in the back of the throat, often on the soft palate, is consistent with consensual as well as nonconsensual oral sexual intercourse.

According to the redacted police log, supplemental narratives were added by those with the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office through February 11, 2021, all of which were entirely redacted, for a length of roughly 14 months, of which the pandemic likely caused many delays. Steve Irwin, press secretary with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, confirmed that the office took over the case as special prosecutors in March 2021. The Special Prosecutions Section of the Attorney General’s Office takes over cases, at the request of the county prosecutor and judge, when conflicts arise or when prosecutors with certain specialties are needed, typically in smaller counties with limited prosecutorial staff.

The case also spans two different political administrations at the Guernsey County Prosecutor’s Office. One-term Prosecutor Joel Blue served from 2017 through 2020. He was then defeated in the 2020 Republican Primary by now serving elected County Prosecutor Lindsey Angler, who took office in 2021. It’s typically in smaller counties in Ohio, especially those with smaller staffs, that some cases take longer to bring to prosecution during that flux when an outgoing prosecutor is leaving office and another is coming in. In Muskingum County, for example, Prosecutor Ron Welch doesn’t typically appear in court himself, serving more as an administrative prosecutor, like those of bigger counties, as where smaller ones, like in Coshocton County, or in this case, Guernsey County, the elected prosecutor often is the one prosecuting the higher level felonies brought by the office. Smaller prosecutor’s offices, as is the case with law enforcement, for example, also experience even higher rates of turnover, at a time when a record number of prosecutors and law enforcement, across the nation, are leaving the profession.

An examination of court cases shows that Guernsey County has used the AG’s Special Prosecutions Section before, particularly in sex crime cases. Irwin also confirmed that the Attorney General had been appointed as special prosecutor in two other active Guernsey County cases, those of Tom Brown and Travis Larrick. Brown is charged with four counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition, the cases involve a victim under the age of ten. Larrick is charged with domestic violence and violating a protection order.

The difficulty for the Attorney General’s Office is explaining why it took nearly two years to bring the case of Josh Sills to a grand jury. Irwin has both in the past and in this matter declined to comment on behalf of the office as to allegations that the Special Prosecutions Section is underfunded and understaffed, a matter of which Y-City News continues to investigate after receiving numerous tips on the matter from prosecutors, defense attorneys and other concerned individuals. While there is no timeline in which a case must be brought, except for the statute of limitations, the Ohio Supreme Court has generally ruled that prosecutors must bring a case within five years after first having evidence a crime was committed, unless new evidence becomes available. In sex crime cases, for example, prosecutors are often informed the day the crime was reported to law enforcement.

It also appears, according to multiple correspondents we have had over the past week, that prosecutors, or at least someone with decision-making powers at the AG’s Office, didn’t believe they had enough evidence to convict Sills of the charges, partially explaining the long delay. When asked if the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office had done an inadequate investigation, requiring prosecutors to reconstruct the case themselves, Irwin declined to comment. Guernsey County Sheriff Jeff Paden, who jointly released the statement along with the AG’s Office, declined to comment as well.

Numerous individuals have alleged in various correspondents to us that the victim threatened to herself, or through those close to her, go public about what happened to her, to the media and on social media, and about the AG’s Office unwillingness to bring the case to grand jury, giving a deadline of Sunday, February 12, the day of the Super Bowl. Sills has been a member of the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent since mid-2022, where he is a left guard. He was set to make north of $700,000 yearly in that role, not including any bonuses for making it to the Super Bowl this year. Sills’ popularity, which was already high from his high school and college years playing football, appears to have recently grown before the announcement of his indictment, as he was headed to the Super Bowl, though he was unlikely to have got any playing time. Y-City News has been presented with no evidence that the victim demanded money from Sills. There are also multiple additional allegations that Sills was involved in other nonconsensual sexual acts, but that evidence has not been independently verified by us.

It also appears that if the AG’s Office was pressured into bringing the case to grand jury, they didn’t do so as reluctantly as one might imagine, capitalizing on the namesake of Sills’ and the national and international attention it would bring. The office took full advantage of the indictment, using its media contact list to blast the release to reporters across the state and country.

NFL Players Indicted in Guernsey County Rape Case,’ the subject of the email read to reporters. In the body of the release, issued by the AG’s Office but in collaboration with the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office, little details of the crime itself were presented. However, it did mention that Sills was ‘an offensive guard for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles,’ a position he had just recently gotten, not one he held when the crime occurred, showing full well the office knew of Sills new found career and the media attention it would bring.

When Y-City News presented these concerns to Irwin in a lengthy email, he did not reply. When told days later that we were going to publish, he simply said, “we cannot comment on the criminal investigation or grand jury proceedings,’ ignoring our various questions posed to the office.

Attorney General Dave Yost, along with Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, both Republicans, are considered to be the front runners to become the state’s next governor in 2026. Yost received substantial negative national media attention in mid-2022 when he challenged the validity of a 10-year-old rape victim who had to leave the state to get an abortion, which was confirmed to have occurred. Current Governor Mike DeWine capitalized on his tough-on-crime approach as the state’s attorney general, especially on sex crimes, while in office, an effort that many political reporters cite as helping him to become governor.┬áBoth DeWine and Yost are former county prosecutors, positions that would grant them the knowledge of the intricate workings of special prosecutions and using criminal cases, as well as their prosecutions, to advance one’s political career.

Sills’ attorney, Joseph Connick, did not return our request for comment but told the Associated Press that the allegations are false and that Sills will be aggressively defended. Sills was issued a summons to appear in Guernsey County Common Pleas Court at 1 p.m. on Thursday, February 16, four days after the Super Bowl. The NFL has placed Sills on the Commissioner Exempt List, meaning that he will not be allowed to practice, play in any games, including the Super Bowl, or travel with the team.

Do you have information about Josh Sills, including unreported nonconsensual sexual conduct he may have been involved in? Have knowledge about this particular case and want to bring it to our attention? Y-City News would like to hear from you. Contact us at (740) 562-6252, email us at contact@ycitynews.com or mail us at PO Box 686, Zanesville, Ohio 43701. All sources are kept strictly confidential.