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DA's report on Roethlisberger finished; charges seem unlikely

Saturday, April 10, 2010

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- A prosecutor said Friday he completed investigating allegations that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a college student.

Roethlisberger's attorney, Edward T.M. Garland, said his client hasn't been arrested or indicted.

All signs seem to point to no criminal charges being filed against the two-time Super Bowl winner.

"The investigation, interviews, and report in the Roethlisberger matter have been completed and reviewed," Baldwin County District Attorney Fred Bright said in a prepared statement. "We will be announcing the decision in this case at a news conference to be held on Monday."

The Steelers declined to comment.

Bright on Tuesday received a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Milledgeville Police Department. The agencies investigated claims by a 20-year-old sorority member who reported around 2:30 a.m. March 5 that Roethlisberger attacked her in a restroom at Capital City nightclub after celebrating his birthday with friends.

The Tribune-Review does not name alleged victims of sex abuse.

"There has been no criminal charge that has been brought against Ben Roethlisberger," Garland said in an interview in his Atlanta office. "There has been no warrant, no accusation, no indictment, and there should be none in this matter."

Bright, 54, declined further comment. He and his staff spent yesterday in offices with locked doors, occasionally admitting other courthouse employees.

"Had they wanted to arrest Roethlisberger, they would've issued a warrant, not waited for a press conference on Monday," said B.J. Bernstein, an Atlanta defense attorney with no ties to the case.

"If they had wanted to send this matter to a grand jury, which is a closed process, they would not have a public press conference to do that," Bernstein said. "Most likely, what we're seeing here is that the district attorney has chosen to drop the matter."

Baldwin County court staff said that Bright's office did not request a special grand jury and that no warrants were issued for Roethlisberger. The next scheduled round of subpoenas for a July grand jury won't go out until late June.

Bright could end the matter Monday, and a seven-year statute of limitations would linger if any evidence impugning Roethlisberger surfaced. Bright could present what police found to the 26-member grand jury to try to secure an indictment. Or, he could issue an arrest warrant and allow Roethlisberger to plead his case at a preliminary hearing.

Garland said he told Roethlisberger of the prosecutor's news conference plans, but he wouldn't say what advice he gave his client. He said the report police gave Bright was "very comprehensive," and "we are confident in the judicial process."

"I'll tell you this," said Garland. "Ben Roethlisberger has never been accused by law enforcement of committing any criminal offense throughout his entire life. To my knowledge, I don't believe he's even received a speeding ticket. ... As I have always maintained, it is our belief that a just determination in this matter will be that no crime of any sort was committed by Ben Roethlisberger."

Bernstein said the police investigation appears to have progressed "exactly how these cases should function, but often don't."

"Typically, cases like the Roethlisberger matter are handled differently," she said. "It's not unusual, as in this matter, to not have DNA present. It comes down to 'he said, she said.' Police departments will receive an allegation and talk to both parties, and then make an arrest, arguing that they will let the case go down the system with a jury possibly making the final inquiry about the facts.

"So arrests happen pretty quickly. We didn't see that happen here."

Roethlisberger's accuser has filed no civil action, but under Georgia law has two years to decide whether to do so. She hired Atlanta attorney, Lee Parks Jr., who said yesterday he had "no comment."

A female casino employee in Lake Tahoe, Nev., accuses Roethlisberger in a lawsuit of raping her in 2008, an allegation he denies.

Roethlisberger owns a lakeside mansion about 30 miles north of Milledgeville, a town about 80 miles south of Atlanta.



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