Authorities won't look at Roethlisberger

Updated: July 23, 2009, 10:39 AM ET
Associated Press

RENO, Nev. -- Law enforcement officials in Nevada have no intention of opening a criminal investigation into allegations Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger raped a woman at a Lake Tahoe hotel-casino a year ago, the sheriff's department said Wednesday.

Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Teresa Duffy said the accuser would have to file a criminal complaint to trigger an investigation into the incident the woman says occurred during a celebrity golf tournament last July while she was working as an executive VIP casino host at Harrah's Lake Tahoe.

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger

"The victim is the only one who can do that," Duffy told The Associated Press. "Unless there was a third party that actually witnessed the incident, which according to the civil case, was not the case here."

The 31-year-old Nevada woman has filed a lawsuit saying the Super Bowl winning quarterback raped her in a hotel penthouse across the street from the golf course, a claim his lawyer vehemently denies.

She also accuses Harrah's officials, including the casino's chief of security, of orchestrating a cover-up of the incident she says she reported to him the next day. The lawsuit alleges Harrah's officials worked to silence her and undermine her credibility rather than investigate her claims.

The stunning allegations served as a major distraction for Roethlisberger as the Steelers get ready to report to camp next week. The Steelers and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said they were looking into the allegations against Roethlisberger, who has won two Super Bowls in his five-year career.

"I don't know enough of the details, but it's a civil lawsuit. It's something that we obviously will look into," Goodell said Tuesday when asked about it in New York during an unrelated news conference. "I've been in touch with the Steelers about it."

Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said the team was aware of the lawsuit, and "we are gathering information."

The woman, a native of Canada who had worked at Harrah's Lake Tahoe hotel-casino since 2003, never went to outside authorities with her story, and it's unclear why she decided to file the lawsuit seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars a year after the alleged incident.

Her lawsuit says she didn't file a criminal complaint because she feared Harrah's would side with Roethlisberger -- a friend of the hotel-casino's regional president John Koster -- and she would be fired.

She said the security chief, Guy Hyder, told her she was "overreacting," that "most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger" and that "Koster would love you even more if he knew about this."

The lawsuit said she was treated between last August and December at five different hospitals for depression and anxiety stemming from the alleged assault, and returned to work each time after treatment.

She sought legal counsel in March after Harrah's officials told her Roethlisberger was invited to play in the 2009 celebrity golf tournament and ordered her to take a paid two-week leave during the event, the lawsuit said, "to accommodate her assailant." The tournament took place last week.

Cal Dunlap, the Reno lawyer who filed her lawsuit in Washoe County District Court on Friday, said neither he nor the woman will comment.

Dunlap is the former county district attorney who also represents Nevada first lady Dawn Gibbons in divorce proceedings against Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons. Dunlap refused to discuss the woman's whereabouts.

On Wednesday, she was not at the property where she has been living in rural Douglas County. The old dairy farm about 20 miles from Lake Tahoe has a main farm house and several outbuildings, some of which appear to be rented out as apartments.

In a statement earlier this week, Roethlisberger lawyer David Cornwell said: "Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone. The timing of the lawsuit and the absence of a criminal complaint and a criminal investigation are the most compelling evidence of the absence of any criminal conduct."

Harrah's officials said they do not comment on pending legal matters.

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $440,000 in damages from the quarterback, at least $50,000 in damages from eight Harrah's officials and an unspecified amount of punitive damages "sufficient to deter" Roethlisberger and the others "from engaging in such conduct in the future."

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger intends to stick to his plans to participate in Shaquille O'Neal's new reality TV series. He canceled a news conference set for Thursday to promote the show, but ABC spokesman Edwin Escobar said in an e-mail Wednesday that production will proceed as scheduled Friday.

In the show "Shaq Vs." debuting Aug. 18, Roethlisberger is one of the athletes the NBA star will challenge in their respective sports.

Roethlisberger has twice led the Steelers to Super Bowl victories in his five-year career and is one of the biggest names in sports.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press