"Conflicting versions of the event, a lack of verifiable eyewitnesses and a significant lack of cooperation from Jane Doe; we cannot prove a crime occurred," said Lindsay Walsh, Santa Clara Deputy District Attorney in charge of the case. "In this particular case, there were particular pieces of information missing."
"The issue of domestic violence is important to us, as it is throughout society," the 49ers said in a statement. "We have taken this allegation seriously, just as we have taken the principles of due process seriously. We have said from the beginning that we will consider the information available, allow the facts to lead to our decisions and respect the judicial process.
"Based on the information available to us and the District Attorney's decision not to file charges, there will be no change in Ray's status with the team."
McDonald was arrested on Aug. 31 on felony domestic violence charges after an incident that occurred at his San Jose home. A police report noted "visible injuries" to an alleged victim, who was not identified by police but is believed to be McDonald's fiancée. McDonald posted $25,000 bail and was released from police custody several hours after the arrest.
Walsh said McDonald was cooperative with officers on the night of the incident and gave a follow-up interview later.
"He was cooperative," she said. "He spoke to responding officers that night and gave a recorded statement. He also gave a follow-up interview with San Jose Police detectives. He allowed them to come into his home."
The DA's office said Monday for the first time that McDonald's fiancée made a 911 call from the house at 2:41 a.m.
"Hello. I'd like to press for a domestic violence," she said, according to a memo released by the DA's office. "My fiancé, ... he's trying to pull me out of the house ... he's drunk ... I think he's calling the cops, he, he's trying to get me out."
McDonald also made a 911 call, two minutes before his fiancée's, in which he said he needed to get "a female" out of his house, according to the DA's office.
The DA's office cited "a significant lack of cooperation by Jane Doe" as a contributing factor in the decision. After the night in question, she declined to speak with investigators.
According to Walsh, McDonald's fiancée "never used the words 'choking,' 'grabbing,' 'punching'" -- "anything of that nature" during her interview with police. When police attempted to interview her two days later and take additional photographs, she refused.
Walsh said that McDonald's fiancée said McDonald struck her and was restraining her. However, the investigation revealed that McDonald's fiancée hit him first.
"Both Jane Doe and McDonald agree that Jane Doe struck first," according to the memo. "Jane Doe said it was a single push. McDonald said Jane Doe hit him multiple times with a closed fist. ... [McDonald had no visible injuries or complaints of pain.] McDonald grabbed Jane Doe's arms to restrain her, resulting in visible injury."
"I am confident in our decision," Walsh said. "After a complete and thorough investigation, we and the San Jose Police Department interviewed many witnesses, we looked at recorded interviews, we heard the 911 call. There were key pieces of evidence that were missing. We really don't know what happened between the two parties."
Cindy Hendrickson, supervising deputy district attorney for the Santa Clara County family violence unit, said, "It boils down to, Did a crime occur? There was insufficient evidence."
The incident took place at a party for McDonald's 30th birthday that was attended by several 49ers players, including tight end Vernon Davis, who told reporters he didn't see anything.
McDonald has spent his entire eight-year NFL career with the 49ers. He was drafted in the third round in 2007 after being part of a BCS championship team at Florida.
The McDonald case has brought scrutiny to the 49ers organization, which has had 10 player arrests -- the most in the league -- since 2012. With domestic violence cases involving NFL players among the defining stories of the season, the 49ers -- from owner Jed York to general manager Trent Baalke to coach Jim Harbaugh -- repeatedly insisted on allowing due process to play out before taking any action against McDonald.
He has played in every one of the 49ers' games since the incident as other players around the league -- Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Dwyer among them -- have been suspended and released (Rice) or sent to the sideline (Peterson, Dwyer) for arrests related to domestic violence.
The San Jose Police Department became embroiled in its own controversy when the San Jose Mercury News reported that the department's investigation had been complicated by the fact that an officer who had provided private security to the team was at the house when other officers arrived to investigate the allegations. It was reported by KGO-TV in San Francisco that McDonald placed a personal call to Sgt. Sean Pritchard, who was on duty and in uniform at the time of the call. In response, the San Jose Police Department suspended its officers from working private security for the 49ers.
Walsh and Hendrickson said the officer's involvement had no bearing on the investigation.
San Jose Police took a month to forward its investigation to the Santa Clara District Attorney's office. On Oct. 9, the DA's office received the results of the police investigation, and the next day the Mercury News reported the details of the officer's presence at the home.
The birthday-party incident was the second time San Jose police had been called to McDonald's home after a report of a domestic dispute. On May 25, according to the police report, officers responded to an alleged incident of a woman grabbing a man's gun. Police did not identify either person by name, but multiple reports indicated the subjects were McDonald and his fiancée.
The issue of domestic violence among NFL players came to the forefront after TMZ posted video of Rice striking his then-fiancée, and now wife, in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. Rice was originally given a two-game suspension by commissioner Roger Goodell, who later responded to the media and public firestorm by suspending Rice indefinitely. Rice has appealed, and a decision from Judge Barbara Jones is expected before Thanksgiving.
"The Ray Rice matter inspired a public discussion, which I think has been largely very healthy and very helpful," Hendrickson said. "Victims should never feel that when charges are not filed, it was because we didn't believe them."
It has been more than two months since Goodell commissioned former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the Rice video and the league's handling of the matter.