Roethlisberger investigation's progress cited

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MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Authorities investigating a sexual assault charge lodged against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday that they have made progress and could submit their findings to the district attorney "before too much longer," but they emphasized there is no timeline for the investigation.

John Bankhead, spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Atlanta, cautioned that such a development would be unlikely to be made public and that it would not necessarily mean the end of the investigation.

Mr. Bankhead said it would be up to Fred Bright, district attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, to determine whether the case should proceed to a grand jury, and it is possible that Mr. Bright would request that elements of the investigation be revisited or extended.

That could include additional interviews with witnesses, Mr. Bankhead said.

Mr. Bright declined to comment Thursday beyond reiterating an earlier statement saying, "The investigation is ongoing. It would be premature to make any announcement at this time."

A 20-year-old student at Georgia College & State University told police that Mr. Roethlisberger assaulted her March 5 in a Milledgeville night club. Mr. Roethlisberger, who was questioned by police that night, has denied the accusation through his Atlanta-based attorneys.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which was brought in at the outset to assist on the case at the request of the Milledgeville Police Department, has designated several agents to the case. They and the Milledgeville police have spent the past month interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence.

Mr. Bankhead disagreed with suggestions that the probe was taking more time than expected. On the contrary, he said, it's moving along fairly smoothly toward its conclusion, on a pace similar to that of other cases the department handles.

"People who say this case is dragging along don't understand our procedures," Mr. Bankhead said. "... there are all kinds of things we have to take into account, such as the availability of witnesses."

Asked whether investigators have encountered any difficulties in their probe, Mr. Bankhead replied, "No, other than with the media.

"There are a lot of people out there reporting things and repeating things that just are not true. They'll be eating crow later. It may taste delicious like Thanksgiving turkey now, but later on, when the facts come out, it'll taste like eating crow."

Milledgeville police Chief Woodrow W. Blue Jr. agreed with that assessment. "We're closer today than we were yesterday," he said. "I'm not comfortable putting a time frame on it. The way we do things in Georgia, I don't want to say two more weeks or three more weeks. It will be over when it's over."

Dan Majors: or 412-263-1456.


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