April 12, 2010
"The sexual allegation against Mr. Roethlisberger cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, there will be no arrest made, nor criminal prosecution for his actions here on March 5, 2010. The facts as they appear from the investigation are essentially these: On the evening of Thursday, March 4, and going into after midnight, March 5, Ben Roethlisberger(notes) was bar-hopping with his bodyguards and friends here in Milledgeville, Georgia, and attracting a crowd wherever he went. And the victim was bar-hopping with her sorority sisters.
"Both parties had been drinking alcohol prior to meeting each other. [They met] at different bars throughout the night. They participated in conversations, some of a sexual nature. After midnight, Mr. Roethlisberger and his entourage were at the Capital City Club, and the manager let them use the VIP area. The victim went to the nightclub with her sorority sisters later. Mr. Roethlisberger invited them into the VIP area, where he provided shots of alcohol for them. Everyone agrees that the victim was highly intoxicated, due to consumption of alcohol.
"One of the bodyguards guided the victim down a back hallway. Mr. Roethlisberger followed her down the hallway into a small bathroom. The issue is what happened in that small, less than five-foot wide, single-commode bathroom. Significant questions about what occurred persist."
That was part of the statement read by Ocmulgee County District Attorney Fred Bright at 2 p.m EST, in which he revealed that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be charged in the case of a 20-year-old college student who claimed that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her on March 5. The question is, what happens now?
Some are claiming that the Steelers were "sending a message" to Roethlisberger with Sunday's trade of wide receiver Santonio Holmes(notes) to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been awaiting the end of the investigation before talking to Roethlisberger about any league punishment.
This is the second offseason accusation against Roethlisberger in as many years — he still faces a civil suit by a woman who accused him of raping her in a Lake Tahoe casino in July of 2008. Roethlisberger has claimed counterdamages in a lawsuit. And though Roethlisberger has not been charged in that case either, Goodell has expressed concern about the trend. "The most important thing is we take the issue very seriously," Goodell recently told the media. "We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position."
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and owner Art Rooney II have expressed concern as well, but both have said that they would let the legal process play out. For Goodell, it's a different issue — if he decides that Roethlisberger engaged in egregious behavior based on the police report, he can take specific action against the player — he can suspend him, recommend that he undergo some sort of counseling, or fine him. Then, Roethlisberger may have to deal with the specter of another civil suit, and the unhappiness from his team that he's put himself in these positions to be accused, whether he did anything or not. In the short term, the best thing for Ben Roethlisberger might be to develop an appreciation for more home-based hobbies. Odds are, he'll have quite a few people recommending that in the near future.
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