Coraopolis officer's lawyer contends his client did no wrong

| Friday, April 23, 2010

Coraopolis Council has opened an investigation into Patrolman Anthony Barravecchio's conduct as a member of Ben Roethlisberger's entourage in Milledgeville, Ga.

Borough solicitor Richard F. Start requested the four volumes of case files Milledgeville police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation compiled in their investigation of a college student's accusation that the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback raped her after a night of bar-hopping. His entourage included Barravecchio and Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Edward Joyner.

"Under the code for boroughs in Pennsylvania, police officers are held to a higher standard of conduct than you or I am," Start said Thursday.

Barravecchio could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Michael Santicola, said he and his client didn't know the borough was investigating but believes it will find nothing.

"We've looked at the files and there were mistakes the investigators in Georgia made," said Santicola. "There were some wrong conclusions made because of incorrect statements by people they interviewed, but ultimately they made the right decision not to prosecute Ben or Tony because they did nothing illegal."

Start said borough officials have not scheduled any meetings on the matter because they have not had a chance to read the files.

"Our expectation is that the volumes will arrive shortly and we will see in them what we need to learn," Start said.

The files include a series of often conflicting stories about Barravecchio's actions during the booze-fueled night of March 4-5. Some witnesses told Georgia investigators that Roethlisberger and his companions knew female students as young as 19 were drinking with Roethlisberger — but Barravecchio didn't touch a drop.

Nicole Biancofiore of Milledgeville told detectives that about 1:30 a.m. March 5, Barravecchio "placed his hand" on a 20-year-old Georgia College & State University female student's shoulder and applied "a little bit of pressure to guide her" to a staff restroom where the student said Roethlisberger assaulted her.

Barravecchio said he was asked to show a "giggling" young woman to the restroom and that she sat on a bar stool nearby, according to the report. He said he never saw Roethlisberger enter the room, and they denied the woman was sexually assaulted.

Citing an inability to prove Roethlisberger's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, on April 12 Georgia District Attorney Fred Bright declined to prosecute the two-time Super Bowl champ.

On Tuesday, however, the National Football League hit Roethlisberger with a conditional suspension that could last six games. State police revoked permission granted to Joyner to moonlight for Roethlisberger.

State police said Joyner's duties as the quarterback's "assistant" strayed from what he wrote on a 2005 application seeking approval for the job — that he would answer phone calls and fan mail and shuttle the star to home games, autograph sessions and charity events.

Georgia case files showed the off-duty officers performing other chores, including feeding Roethlisberger's dog, procuring automobiles for his use, paying his bar tabs and providing security to "buffer" him from excited fans. Barravecchio told Georgia investigators that he wasn't paid but received perks such as vacations at Roethlisberger's lakeside mansion 30 miles north of Milledgeville.

Start said Coraopolis didn't require a special application for Barravecchio's duties with the quarterback, and assumed he "was a friend of Ben Roethlisberger, not an employee."

Since August 2008, Coraopolis has loaned Barravecchio to a federal narcotics task force targeting Pittsburgh International Airport. Some of his undercover work included buying drugs and is overseen by the Pittsburgh station of the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to Philadelphia DEA spokesman Bryan Doherty and the Milledgeville case files.

At issue is whether Barravecchio's role in the Milledgeville visit jeopardized ongoing operations, especially after his photograph was splashed across Internet gossip sites.

"We continue to review the whole matter," said Doherty. "We're not going to rush to make a determination, but it's something we take very seriously."

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