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Footballers cleared of sexual assault

The son of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was one of four footballers found not guilty on Friday of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in a Brighton hotel room.

Anton Rodgers, Lewis Dunk, George Barker and Steve Cook were cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey in London. Jurors also cleared Rodgers, Barker and Cook not guilty of voyeurism. Dunk had been cleared of that offence an earlier trial.

All four men, who were team-mates at Championship side Brighton at the time of the incident, maintained their innocence throughout.

Brighton team-mates Dunk, 21, and Barker, 20, were accused along with 20-year-old Rodgers, released this week by the Championship club, and 22-year-old Cook, who now plays for Bournemouth, recently promoted from League One.

The players' families, including Rodgers' father Brendan, watched the proceedings at court. Their mothers and girlfriends were in tears in the public gallery as the verdicts were returned. The footballers wept in a group hug outside the court as they were comforted by their families.

An original trial ended in February when the jury managed to reach a verdict on only one charge, finding Dunk not guilty of voyeurism. All of the other charges were considered at the retrial.

Richard Barton, leading the prosecution case, told the court that the four players were celebrating victory in a local cup in July 2011 when they came across a drunken woman at a Brighton club.

She woke up at the Jurys Inn hotel in the city to find her strapless dress pulled down, and said she saw explicit pictures on Anton Rodgers' mobile phone. Barton said these were taken as a "permanent record of their conquest".

It showed the sleeping woman with shaving foam spelling out 'GB' on her thigh. Barker was next to her doing a thumbs-up sign and smiling.

Another player, Leon Redwood, said he went into the room at night and sprayed the foam. Barker and Rodgers said the woman had joined in what they called "boys' banter".

She climbed into bed with them and started kissing them. Dunk and Cook said they were sleeping on the floor and did not get involved with the woman.

The court later heard that the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was said to have "told a pack of lies" following the incident. She agreed she lied to police and her employers but said she had been humiliated by the sportsmen.

Following the verdicts, Brighton released a statement on their official website which read: "Brighton and Hove Albion are pleased to note the not guilty verdicts in the trial involving George Barker, Lewis Dunk and Anton Rodgers.

"This concludes a difficult period for all those concerned but we trust that their privacy and that of their families will be respected.

"The club will be making no further comment."

In a statement released via Liverpool's website following the verdict, Brendan Rodgers said: "The last 18 months have been extremely traumatic for us as a family, but we are relieved that Anton's name has been cleared.

"As a family and on behalf of Anton, I would like to thank Liverpool Football Club, the owners, management, coaching staff, players and fans for the way they have all supported us through this distressing process.

"I am also pleased for the other defendants and their families, that they can now get on with living their lives without these hurtful allegations hanging over them."