Roethlisberger says he’ll fight rape allegations
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger vowed Thursday to fight a Lake Tahoe casino hostess’ rape allegations against him, calling them “false and vicious.”
Roethlisberger was served with a civil lawsuit last weekend when he returned to Lake Tahoe, where a 31-year-old Nevada woman alleges the quarterback raped her in a hotel penthouse in July 2008. Roethlisberger was in Nevada on both occasions to compete in a celebrity golf event.
The woman did not file a criminal complaint.
“Saturday was the first I heard of her accusations,” Roethlisberger said. “Her false and vicious allegations are an attack on my family and on me. I would never, ever force myself on a woman.”
In his first public comments on the matter, Roethlisberger read a statement at the Steelers practice complex in Pittsburgh. Dressed in a brown pinstriped suit with no tie, Roethlisberger spoke for less than two minutes and did not respond to questions.
Roethlisberger was accompanied by Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin; his agent, Ryan Tollner; and his attorney, David Cornwell. They all left immediately after the statement was read.
Roethlisberger, who is not married, said he would fight what he called “outrageous allegations,” but said he would not discuss his private life or the lawsuit in the media.
“The allegations against me are reckless and false,” Roethlisberger said. “As much as I’d like to answer everyone’s questions, I’m going to respect the legal process and I’m confident that the truth will prevail.”
The woman alleges she was working as a VIP casino host at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, and claims the rape took place in Roethlisberger’s room after he called her on a bogus complaint about the television.
According to the lawsuit, Harrah’s executives have been aware of the allegations for months. It says the woman’s lawyer, Cal Dunlap, sent a letter to Harrah’s executives on April 2 “informing them of the assault that had taken place on July 11, 2008.” It also says Harrah’s lawyers responded on April 13 to “dissuade plaintiff from pressing claims against Roethlisberger… and Harrah’s.”
Cornwell did not immediately return a telephone call or e-mail seeking comment.
Roethlisberger said he would remain focused on the upcoming season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Steelers begin their training camp on July 31 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, a town about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Minutes after Roethlisberger finished his statement, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal walked into the media room in the Steelers’ headquarters. Roethlisberger is participating in O’Neal’s new reality TV series.
Roethlisberger canceled a news conference to promote the show, but ABC spokesman Edwin Escobar said in an e-mail Wednesday that filming is set for Friday. In the show “Shaq Vs.” debuting Aug. 18, Roethlisberger is one of the athletes O’Neal will challenge in their respective sports.
Law enforcement officials in Nevada said Wednesday they do not plan to open a criminal investigation into the alleged incident. Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Teresa Duffy said the accuser would have to file a criminal complaint to trigger an investigation.
“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 lawsuit seeks a minimum of $440,000 in damages from the quarterback, at least $50,000 in damages from the Harrah’s officials and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
The lawsuit says the woman didn’t file a criminal complaint because she feared Harrah’s would side with Roethlisberger and she would be fired. The suit doesn’t say whether the woman is still working for Harrah’s.
The suit also alleges hotel officials for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe went to great lengths to cover up the incident.
The lawsuit says the woman required hospitalization for treatment for depression after the alleged attack.
Earlier this week, Cornwell issued a statement on Roethlisberger’s behalf saying, “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.”
Roethlisberger’s touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds to play lifted the Steelers to a 27-23 Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals in February. Roethlisberger is one of only two quarterbacks in NFL history, along with the Patriots’ Tom Brady, to win two Super Bowls by the age of 26.
AP writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.
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