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Records detail Ben Roethlisberger's barhopping

| Friday, April 16, 2010

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Four volumes of written records tied to the investigation of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger paint a tawdry picture of the bar-hopping that led to allegations he raped a college student.

Hundreds of pages of interviews, statements and investigative material released Thursday depict a drunken lout buying booze for under-aged women and ordering his bodyguards to keep men away from about two dozen women surrounding him in the "VIP" room of the Capital City nightclub early March 5.

In a nationally-televised news conference, District Attorney Fred Bright declined Monday to prosecute Roethlisberger, 28, because he could not prove a rape happened "beyond a reasonable doubt."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Milledgeville police determined Roethlisberger found himself alone in a dingy restroom with the 20-year-old Georgia College & State University sophomore, who was drunk, at about 1:30 a.m. on March 5.

The Tribune-Review doesn't name the alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Ann Marie Lubatti, a friend of the alleged victim, told investigators that Roethlisberger appeared to be "noticeably intoxicated" before walking to the nearby restroom and that "he walked back to where she was with his penis already out of his pants."

Although the accuser first told Milledgeville police she wasn't raped, her written statement when she sobered up said that Roethlisberger came at her with his genitals exposed.

"I told him it wasn't OK; no, we don't need to do this, and I proceeded to get up and try to leave," the accuser wrote. "I went to the first door I saw, which happened to be the bathroom, and shut the door behind him. I still said no, this is not OK, and he then had sex with me. He said it was OK. He then left without saying anything."

Allegations of all-night drinking run throughout the report. Lubatti entered the club with an illegal ID that Milledgeville police later destroyted, according to the files.

Authorities never measured Roethlisberger's blood alcohol content.

Many of the witness statements offer contradictory versions of events, but everyone seems to agree Roethlisberger's involvement with the young woman began at the Velvet Elvis tavern around midnight, when he noticed a tag she wore on her dress that suggested she was willing to engage in sexual intercourse.

At one point, according to the accuser's friend Victoria Garofalo, the quarterback looked at the pin and said that he liked to "(expletive) girls." Another Steeler, offensive lineman Willie Colon, told authorities that women were going "nutty" for the quarterback.

Colon said he avoided under-aged co-eds as he drank Patron tequila. He told investigators that Roethlisberger said the accusation was "b.s. and that he didn't do anything." Colon declined to comment for this story.

Two other Steelers, offensive linemen Ramon Foster and Darnell Stapleton, were with the entourage earlier in the week but went home before the Milledgeville trip.

At The Brick restaurant, Roethlisberger was asked whether he wanted to take the party back to the accuser's sorority house, but he said, "Hell no. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen," student Katie Cromie told investigators.

According to Garofalo, his entourage — which included off-duty Pennsylvania State Trooper Ed Joyner and Coraopolis Officer Tony Barravecchio — "even asked our age and were kind of surprised when I said 19 and the other girls, 20."

Throughout the evening, witnesses told investigators, Roethlisberger ordered shots of tequila and called for young women to drink them.

Student Nicole Biancofiore told Milledgeville officers that Barravecchio "placed his hand" on the young accuser's "shoulder and (applied) a little bit of pressure to guide her" to the staff restroom.

Barravecchio told investigators that Roethlisberger asked him to show the accuser the bathroom. The woman followed Barravecchio, giggling. He later said he never saw anyone follow the woman to the bathroom.

When student Lubatti said she tried to enter the VIP area to retrieve her highly intoxicated friend, Trooper Joyner "stated he did not know what she was talking about." A bouncer at the club, Caleb Johnson, said that Joyner — who paid the bar tab — instructed him "to allow only females back to the area where Mr. Roethlisberger was seated."

Confronted later by Milledgeville police, Roethlisberger told them the accuser "was so intoxicated she had fallen and hit her head" and that "he would not give the girl the time of day, and that he had ignored her."

Members of his entourage told police a disgruntled friend of the accuser was removed from the VIP area and might have tried to punish Roethlisberger for that. According to the files, Barravecchio told Milledgeville police that "these whores in town see guys with money and accuse them of rape."

Roethlisberger then invoked his right to remain silent. He flew back to Pittsburgh the next day.

GBI Agent Tom Davis confirmed Pennsylvania State Police officials contacted agents about the trooper's role in the affair.

"We have not seen the investigative report, but will have further dialogue with the Georgia authorities to properly evaluate the situation, should that be necessary," said Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman Lt. Myra Taylor.

Davis was concerned about the Capital City restroom being compromised. The door was locked but Milledgeville officers never marked it with crime scene tape, so a janitor who didn't know about the incident mopped it with Clorox bleach and Pine-Sol, potentially destroying valuable evidence.

"Naturally, we would have liked to have been in there and had a good look at the scene before that happened," said Davis.

The rape kit taken at the hospital determined that male DNA was present, but the sample was too small to determine identity, leading GBI investigators to tell Roethlisberger's attorney, Ed Garland, that it would be "futile" to ask for his client's genetic material for comparison. Garland declined to comment until he read the investigative material.

Attorney Lee Parks said the accuser, who has quit school, is seeking therapy because of the incident.

As first reported by the Trib, Jerry Blash, the patrolman who first investigated the matter, resigned Wednesday, just before the public records were released. GBI agents learned that Blash used salty language to describe the young accuser. He also had his photo taken with Roethlisberger and several other officers earlier in the evening of March 4, before she claimed she had been assaulted.

"He no longer is an employee here," said Chief Blue, who insists that Blash's role in didn't compromise the investigation because the case was handed off quickly to detectives within the department and GBI.

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