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Roethlisberger's attorney says Ben is innocent of any crime

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Monday, March 8, 2010

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Cautioning the public to avoid rushing to judgment, Georgia authorities said today they continue to investigate allegations that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a 20-year-old female student.

In an exclusive interview with the Tribune-Review, however, Roethlisberger's newly hired attorney — prominent Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Edward T.M. Garland — rushed to insist that his client "is completely innocent of any crime."

"The truth of events will cause this investigation to end without a charge," said Garland, who has represented other high-profile athletes and celebrities accused of serious crimes, including the murder probe involving Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis in 2000.

"I'm confident that law enforcement the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the local police and the district attorney will do a thorough evaluation of the facts in this case and that their conclusion will be that no crime was committed," said Garland.

Police and the DA, however, didn't go that far this afternoon.

In a press conference before a growing phalanx of reporters drawn to the small city about 80 miles south of Atlanta, Milledgeville Police Chief Woodrow Blue Jr., 53, said Roethlisberger and Garland were "cooperating with us in this investigation."

Asked specifically what aid Roethlisberger and his legal team were providing, beyond a Friday morning interview before the quarterback traveled to Pittsburgh, Blue said authorities would meet with the attorney and his client and around eight members of the star's entourage in "the next two to three days."

Roethlisberger owns a mansion on Lake Oconee, about 35 miles north of Milledgeville.

Blue said Roethlisberger hadn't given a DNA sample but that detectives would ask for it "at some point." His accuser was treated at the request of the officials Friday morning at the Oconee Regional Medical Center.

Tom Davis, 51, said his Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents would begin to review video surveillance tapes from "various businesses" visited by Roethlisberger, his entourage and the young woman during a pub crawl that began around 10 p.m. Thursday at the Velvet Elvis restaurant and ended around 2 a.m. Friday at the nearby Capital City dance club.

Both men said the unidentified woman specified Roethlisberger as her attacker, and said she hired an attorney, too, although they declined to name the lawyer. The woman's friends insist that she is reeling from the attack and that she detests the scandal and publicity. They continue to characterize her as a "victim."

Davis refused to speculate on the woman's credibility or say whether she submitted to a blood-alcohol test to determine whether she had been drinking. In Georgia, people as young as 18 can mix with drinkers in nightclubs, but laws bar them from being served.

Baldwin County District Attorney Frederic D. Bright released a statement saying the investigation continues, and that it "would be premature to make my decision at this time."

On Monday, Steelers President Art Rooney II also issued a statement: "All of us in the Steelers family are concerned about the recent incident involving Ben Roethlisberger in Georgia. We cannot comment on any of the specifics until law enforcement's investigation is concluded."

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