An employee of Harrah's Lake Tahoe hotel in Nevada has claimed in a civil lawsuit that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her in his room last July while he was in town for a celebrity golf tournament.
The complaint, filed Friday in Washoe County, Nev., also names eight Harrah's employees accused of being part of a widespread cover-up in the Harrah's organization. They include the resort's president, security chief and other supervisors.
Mr. Roethlisberger's lawyer yesterday denied that his client had sexually assaulted anyone.
Harrah's Entertainment spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson today said the casino and hotel chain had no comment, citing the pending litigation.
At the time of the alleged assault last summer, the woman was an "executive casino host" who also worked as a concierge for the American Century Celebrity golf tournament.
The complaint said the woman was introduced to Mr. Roethlisberger by a hotel employee. They talked about fly fishing the day before the alleged assault.
One of the co-defendants, John Koster, listed as Harrah's Northern Nevada president, was paired with the quarterback for the golf event. The complaint said the woman learned that Mr. Koster "boasted" about his friendship with Mr. Roethlisberger. The security chief, identified as Guy Hyder, "emphasized how important it was for plaintiff to ensure that Roethlisberger had a nice trip."
The woman claims that around 10 p.m. on July 11 while she was at her post on the 17th floor, Mr. Roethlisberger asked her to fix a broken television sound system in his room on the same floor, according to the complaint.
She found the television working properly and tried to leave but claims that Mr. Roethlisberger grabbed, kissed and fondled her. Then, the complaint alleges, he pushed her onto his bed and had forcible intercourse with her.
After the alleged assault, the woman washed her face and "tried to pull herself together," the complaint states.
"There are cameras on this room, aren't there," Mr. Roethlisberger allegedly asked her.
"Yes," she replied, "There are cameras everywhere."
"Roethlisberger, acting very worried, sternly instructed her, 'If anyone asks you, you fixed my television. You fixed my television. Now go!' " he said sternly, according to the suit.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
The complaint details a year-long battle that the woman says she waged against her bosses, depression and anxiety.
The woman assumed hotel security would investigate and notify the hotel's executives, the complaint said. She did not go to the police because she "was afraid of the consequences of reporting it to police authorities since it was obvious to her that Harrah's and its personnel, particularly Hyder and Koster, would side with and support Roethlisberger, the celebrity friend of Koster," according to the complaint.
She said her bosses dismissed her concerns, including Mr. Hyder, who allegedly told her she was overreacting and that "most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger."
The complaint blames Mr. Hyder for failing to preserve any physical evidence of the alleged assault, interview witnesses or conduct an investigation.
The woman was in and out of hospitals several times since the alleged incident, ringing up $380,000 in medical bills, the suit says.
According to the complaint, while Mr. Roethlisberger was invited back to Harrah's during this year's golf tournament, which took place last week, the resort "insisted" that the woman take a paid two-week leave "to accommodate her assailant."
The suit lists 12 claims, including assault, sexual assault and battery, false imprisonment, fraud, invasion of privacy and defamation.
The woman's lawyer, Calvin R.X. Dunlap, was not available for comment.
Atlanta-based sports attorney David Cornwell issued a statement on Mr. Roethlisberger's behalf late last night.
"This weekend [the plaintiff] served Ben Roethlisberger with a civil complaint accusing him of sexually assaulting her in July 2008. Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone; especially [the plaintiff]. The timing of the lawsuit and the absence of a criminal complaint and a criminal investigation are the most compelling evidence of the absence of any criminal conduct. If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated.
"Ben will not be baited into a public discussion about his personal life, but we will defend him vigorously. The limited value that [the plaintiff] derived from public disclosure of these viciously false allegations is the only value she will ever receive from Ben in this case," the statement said.
Sharon Flanary, administrative assistant for Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick, where the complaint was filed and where one of the defendants lives, confirmed today that no criminal complaint has been filed there. She said there is no investigation involving any charges against Mr. Roethlisberger.
Likewise, no criminal complaint was found in Douglas County, the location of Lake Tahoe.
"Everyone's been calling, but we have nothing," said Douglas County Sheriff Deputy Teresa Duffy. "There's been no criminal complaint. The DA's office has nothing, either."
Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1962.