In a sharp reversal, Suffolk prosecutors have dropped all charges against Robert W. McClanaghan IV, a Rhode Island-based trainer for NBA players who had been accused of drugging and raping a woman he shared drinks with at a Boston hotel in November.
In papers filed Wednesday in Boston Municipal Court, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden’s office said they no longer believe they can prove the two charges filed against against McClanaghan, rape and drugging someone for sexual intercourse, beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Based on a review of all available evidence, including information that emerged after the defendant’s arrest, the Commonwealth has determined it cannot prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” prosecutors wrote in a court document known as a nolle prosequi. “The victim has been informed through counsel of this” decision.
In a statement, Hayden’s office said prosecutors decided to drop the case after reviewing the evidence.
“Our responsibility in all cases is to follow the evidence wherever it leads. In some cases that endeavor does not add up to a viable prosecution,” prosecutors said. “We have a duty to recognize that conclusion and to take the appropriate action when it is reached. We have taken that appropriate action today. Out of respect for the privacy of all parties involved we will have no further comment.”
Kelli L. Porges, McClanaghan’s defense attorney who has publicly insisted her client was wrongfully accused, said the prosecutors’ decision to abandon the case vindicates his claims of innocence.
“Rob and his family are relieved that this nightmare is over and that he has been exonerated,” Porges said in a statement Wednesday. “Rob has maintained his innocence from the very beginning of this case and now he has been vindicated.”
When McClanaghan, 43, was arrested later in November, Hayden said he was confident the investigation, which included surveillance video from the Rose Town Kitchen & Bar and physical evidence, had produced a strong case. He also noted that so-called date rape drugs generally leave the victim’s system quickly and do not show up in forensic toxicology tests.
“I applaud everyone from law enforcement [and] the people from my office who did an amazing job in putting this case together,” he said at a news conference following McClanaghan’s arraignment last November. “There’s a lot of video evidence in this case. There’s other physical evidence that comes to bear that makes us confident that we can prove this case, regardless of what the toxicology tells us. ... We will do everything we can to hold this man accountable for the crimes he committed.”
He also expressed support for the woman who contacted Boston police hours after she and McClanaghan had met each other in the hotel bar. “When men or women are courageous enough to come up and step forward, like what’s happened in this case and the countless others, we applaud them for that, we support them in that,” he said.
While drink spiking at local bars and nightclubs has sparked widespread concern, with police urging victims to report their suspicions, the charges marked the first time Suffolk County prosecutors had charged someone with drugging and then raping their victim, Hayden said.
“This is exactly the type of victimization and trauma that our society cannot tolerate,’’ Hayden said last fall. “When I heard this was the first case of its kind of Suffolk County I was surprised. I’ve seen these circumstances come up time and time again. They’re tragic, they’re dark. They’re really hard to wrap your mind around. And we always want to do everything we can in these cases.”
He added: “Taking advantage of people that can’t help themselves, that literally can’t defend themselves, is the absolute worst kind of crime we could ever imagine. And we will take them all very, very seriously.”
At McClanaghan’s arraignment, Porges said her client was “not only innocent” and was determined to “exonerate himself.”
“There is nothing to indicate that he raped this woman or drugged this woman,” Porges said during the arraignment.
While Hayden noted such cases are difficult to prosecute, he also said the evidence against McClanaghan in court was substantial.
In court documents, and in a Boston police report filed in court, officials said McClanaghan and the woman met on a dating app and then met in person in Providence on Nov. 2. They made plans to meet the next day at the Canopy By Hilton hotel where the woman was staying, the report said. They had one to two drinks and agreed to go to her room, according to court records.
“The last thing she recalled before blacking out was attempting to take her belt off,” the report said. “The next thing she remembered was waking up in her bed alone and tucked in.”
The woman told investigators she awoke the following day with no memory of what had happened. Her underwear was missing and she was bleeding from her vagina. She called a crisis line and was taken to Tufts Medical Center’s emergency department, where detectives interviewed her, police wrote.
The woman was found to have bruises on her knees, ankles, hips, arms and back, according to police.
Prosecutors had alleged that surveillance video from the Boston hotel bar showed McClanaghan pull something from his pocket and sprinkle it into the woman’s drink. The woman then consumed some of the drink, apparently unaware of McClangaghan’s hand movement, police wrote.
The two are then seen on video getting on an elevator and going together to her room, police wrote.
McClanaghan later texted the woman a photo that allegedly showed a man involved in a sex act with a woman who was bound, face down, and wearing a collar, authorities allege. The woman recognized herself and McClanaghan in the photo, prosecutors said in court last November. Prosecutors said police searched McClanaghan’s home where they recovered the woman’s underwear.
McClanaghan was arrested in Warwick, R.I. on Nov. 22 and arraigned in Boston Municipal Court, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has since been free on $10,000 cash bail.
McClanaghan started his career as a physical education teacher and assistant basketball coach at Bishop Hendricken, a private, all-boys school in Warwick, the Globe has reported. There, he met current Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, who as a high school freshman in 2003 was essentially McClanaghan’s first client, the Globe has reported.
From his start working with high school players, McClanaghan launched into the NBA, training stars such as Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, who wrote the forward to McClanaghan’s 2019 book, “Net Work: Training the NBA’s Best and Finding the Keys to Greatness.”
On his Instagram account now marked as private, The_Rob_Mac, McClanaghan says to his more than 11,000 followers that he “provides on court training for players of all levels.”
Tonya Alanez of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Information from prior Globe coverage was used in this report.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.