Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans was yesterday told he had “thrown away” a successful career as he was sentenced to five years in prison for rape.
Jurors found the Welsh international guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman. His co-defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, was cleared of the same charge.
Both men admitted they had sex with the woman, who cannot be named, but the prosecution said she was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.
In her evidence to Caernarfon Crown Court, the woman said she has no memory of the incident.
Evans’s lawyers said the footballer was “shocked and extremely disappointed” at the verdict.
“Evans firmly maintains his innocence in this matter and is being advised regarding an appeal of the decision,” they added in a statement.
Sheffield United said the club recognised “the seriousness of these events and as such wishes to respond in a responsible way when it has taken sufficient time to consider the matter fully”.
McDonald, 23, vowed to stand by his friend. A statement from his legal team said: “Clayton McDonald has maintained his innocence from the start and is relieved at his verdict.
“However, he is very upset and disappointed regarding the verdict given to his lifelong friend, Ched Evans, whom he will continue to support in any way possible.”
The incident happened at a Premier Inn near Rhyl after they had been on a night out in the seaside town on May 29 last year.
The trial was told McDonald met the woman on the street after visiting a takeaway in the early hours of the next morning.
He took her back to the hotel where they had sex and were joined by Evans, who also had intercourse with the woman.
The jury was told that as the incident took place, Jack Higgins, an “associate” of the footballers, and Ryan Roberts, Evans’s brother, watched through a window.
Video recordings found on Mr Higgins’s phone showed he had been filming or trying to film the incident, the court heard.
Evans told the jury she consented and was “in control of her actions”.
Sentencing, Judge Merfyn Hughes QC said: “The complainant was 19 years of age and was extremely intoxicated.
“CCTV footage shows, in my view, the extent of her intoxication when she stumbled into your friend.
“As the jury have found, she was in no condition to have sexual intercourse.
“When you arrived at the hotel, you must have realised that.
“You have thrown away the successful career in which you were involved.”
He said Evans must serve at least half of the sentence before he can be paroled.
David Fish QC, in mitigation for Evans, said it was a “sad day” for the footballer.
“He is aged 23 and has, until now, had a promising career to which he has devoted his whole life since his teens,” he said. “That career has now been lost.”
Earlier there were chaotic scenes and Evans’s verdict was delayed after court proceedings were disrupted when McDonald was acquitted, prompting a noisy reaction from his friends and family.
Judge Hughes then rose and everyone in the public gallery was ordered to leave the court.
When the judge returned to court, the jury foreman gave the guilty verdict against Evans, who threw the headphones he was using to follow the trial on the floor and looked shocked.
Judge Hughes told McDonald he was free to leave the dock and after the footballer exited the court, shouts of “No, no” could be heard from Evans’s family and friends.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Williams, the senior investigating officer for North Wales Police, said: “I sincerely hope that the guilty verdict will provide some closure on this horrendous ordeal for the victim.”