No charges against Roethlisberger; DA says he should 'grow up'
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MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be prosecuted on sexual assault allegations after the local district attorney today said a month-long investigation into the matter failed to prove that a crime was committed.
Ocmulgee Judicial Court District Attorney Fredric D. Bright, speaking at an afternoon news conference, announced the decision.
He said there was not enough evidence to prove the quarterback raped the woman in a Milledgeville bar bathroom. He said the woman was examined at a hospital after the alleged March 5 attack. A doctor could not say whether a superficial laceration, bruising and slight bleeding in the genital area were evidence of an assault or sexual activity.
A "minute" amount of male DNA was present, but not enough to develop a profile, so Mr. Bright said it would have been "futile" to ask Mr. Roethlisberger for a DNA sample.
Mr. Bright also said the woman had sent a letter to prosecutors asking that no charges be filed.
He said the woman, 20, was highly intoxicated during the night of bar hopping with her sorority sisters from the Georgia College & State University. After the woman emerged from the nightclub bathroom, her sisters took her to a police officer. He initially asked her if she had been raped, and she said no. But she later wrote statements saying there had been sex.
She alleged that Mr. Roethlisberger followed her into the bathroom and they had sex despite her saying it wasn't OK.
Mr. Roethlisberger initially told an officer that he remembered the woman, that he told her she was too drunk to be in the VIP area of the club, and that the woman fell and injured her head, Mr. Bright said. He added doctors at the hospital found no head injuries.
Investigators were not able to interview the quarterback since the night of the incident.
Mr. Bright said he was not condoning Mr. Roethlisberger's conduct. But he said his office doesn't prosecute morals, just crimes.
He noted, however, that the quarterback shouldn't be putting himself in such a position -- inviting only women to a private part of a club and buying shots for them.
He said he would advise Mr. Roethlisberger to "grow up."
Mr. Roethlisberger's Atlanta-based attorney, Edward Garland, has consistently maintained that his client committed no crime.
The Milledgeville Police Department and several agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation collected evidence, reviewed videotapes and interviewed numerous witnesses before turning their findings over to Mr. Bright last week.
According to Georgia law, the district attorney had the option of dropping the matter, pursuing felony charges of sexual assault or reducing the charge to a misdemeanor of sexual battery, involving "the nonconsensual touching of another person's body in a sexual manner."
Today's development doesn't mean Mr. Roethlisberger emerges unscathed. He still could be the target of a civil lawsuit from the woman seeking damages, similar to the situation he faces with a 30-year-old Nevada woman who claims he sexually assaulted her in Lake Tahoe in 2008. That case is in limbo while the Nevada Supreme Court considers a change-of-venue appeal by defense attorneys seeking to move it from Reno, where it was filed, to a court in Lake Tahoe.
Today, the attorney for the woman suing Mr. Roethlisberger in that case, Calvin R.X. Dunlap, said, "We have been monitoring the matter closely, we have conducted our own investigation, and we intend to obtain all the reports available.
"We look forward to questioning Mr. Roethlisberger about the Georgia incident as part of our case here in Nevada."
The Steelers quarterback also could face action by the National Football League, which has a personal conduct policy.
In a statement released by the Steelers hours later, president Art Rooney II said he had met with Mr. Roethlisberger "on a number of occasions, not only to discuss this incident, but also to discuss his commitment to make sure something like this never happens again.
"Ben will now have to work hard to earn back the repsect and trust of Steelers fans, and to live up to the leadership responsibilities we all expect of him."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last month said he intends to meet with Mr. Roethlisberger because, "We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position."
Mr. Rooney said Mr. Roethlisberger will meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, "in the coming days ... to discuss his resolve to abide by the league's personal conduct standards. After consultation with the commissioner, our organization will determine the next steps in the process."
There are also the issues of Mr. Roethlisberger's profile in the community and the public perception of him, as well as the endorsement deals that come with being a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
First Published April 12, 2010 2:03 pm