No vindication: Roethlisberger doesn't escape unscathed

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After a district attorney in Georgia announced Monday that his office would not proceed with a sexual assault case against Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback can consider himself lucky. Meanwhile, the team and its fans can consider themselves affronted by the confirmation of his recklessness.

He may be no criminal, but he is a disgrace.

That conclusion is easily read into the decision by Ocmulgee Judicial Court District Attorney Fredric D. Bright. This was not moral vindication. This was a practical acknowledgement that the evidence was inadequate to prove rape beyond a reasonable doubt as required for a criminal case. What Mr. Bright said was that his office doesn't prosecute morals, just crimes.

On that score, the evidence of moral misbehavior is not so ambiguous. It painted a sordid picture of an intoxicated 20-year-old college student being plied with shots by the player in a Milledgeville, Ga., night club in the early hours of March 5; the quarterback invited her into the VIP section and followed her into a bathroom, or so investigators believe. Because the woman wants the case dropped, the misdemeanor of providing alcohol to a minor won't be pursued.

Lucky for him, after a grubby fashion, but Ben Roethlisberger's luck may yet run out. It is always possible that the Georgia woman may bring a civil suit, as was done by a 30-year-old woman in Nevada who also claimed she was sexually assaulted by him.

Despite the apology read Monday evening by Mr. Roethlisberger, the Steelers or the National Football League, both protective of their image, may apply sanctions for dragging them through the dirt by his at-least-irresponsible behavior. For them, a player doesn't have to act criminally to have acted inappropriately -- something the Georgia authorities clearly think he did. Mr. Bright's advice to Ben Roethlisberger was to "grow up."

That is very good advice and, if not inclined to heed it, he might at least note that the Steelers' patience with troublesome players has evaporated. Witness the departure of Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who was sent packing to the New York Jets after a violation of the league's drug policy.

He escaped criminal prosecution, but Big Ben's luck is such that he ends up being diminished by this incident anyway.



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