Published April 15, 2010
ATLANTA – MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — The 20-year-old college student who accused Ben Roethlisberger of sexual assault told police she tried to get away from the Pittsburgh Steelers star, but he cornered her in a nightclub bathroom.
The woman's statements to police were included in hundreds of pages of police documents released Thursday. Earlier this week, prosecutors said no charges would be filed against Roethlisberger, who has denied the college student's accusations through his attorney.
The student told police Roethlisberger assaulted her in the bathroom of a bar in the college town of Milledgeville early on the morning of March 5. They had met earlier in the night as they bar-hopped, she with her sorority sisters and he with an entourage.
On Friday, Milledgeville Police Chief Woodrow Blue confirmed that Sgt. Jerry Blash, the officer who took the first report from Roethlisberger's accuser, resigned from the force Wednesday, a day before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released the case documents.
The documents show Blash acknowledged to investigators that he made derogatory statements about Roethlisberger's accuser to other officers and that some in Roethlisberger's party may have overheard him. He was the only officer to interview Roethlisberger, with whom he had posed for pictures earlier in the night. Calls to a number listed for him rang unanswered Thursday evening and Friday.
The documents also show that after the college student's accusations surfaced, a 16-year-old in a youth law enforcement program run by the Milledgeville police told authorities he had been told about incidents involving Roethlisberger and a friend's sister. The 16-year-old told police the woman's brother told him that Roethlisberger twice made unwanted sexual advances.
Authorities repeatedly tried to interview the woman, who is in her early 20s, but she declined. A message seeking comment was left Friday with Roethlisberger's lawyer, Ed Garland.
The documents released Thursday for the first time detail the events through the eyes of Roethlisberger's accuser.
In a statement to police on March 5, the young woman said Roethlisberger encouraged her and her friends to do numerous shots. Then one of his bodyguards escorted her into a hallway at the Capital City nightclub, sat her on a stool and left. She said Roethlisberger walked down the hallway and exposed himself.
"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," she said, according to the police documents. "I went to the first door I saw, which happened to be a bathroom."
According to her statement, Roethlisberger then followed her into the bathroom and shut the door.
"I still said no, this is not OK, and he then had sex with me," she wrote. "He said it was OK. He then left without saying anything."
Two of her friends said they saw a bodyguard lead her into the hallway and then saw Roethlisberger follow. They said they couldn't see their friend but knew she was drunk and were worried about her.
Ann Marie Lubatti told police she approached one of Roethlisberger's two bodyguards and said, "This isn't right. My friend is back there with Ben. She needs to come back right now."
She said the bodyguard wouldn't look her in the eye and said he didn't know what she was talking about. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation identified that bodyguard as Ed Joyner, a Pennsylvania trooper, and the man who led Roethlisberger's accuser down the hallway as Anthony Barravecchio, an officer on the force in the Pittsburgh suburb of Coraopolis.
Attorney Michael Santicola, who represents Barravecchio but said Joyner also is a longtime friend, confirmed March 10 that the two officers were present, but not in an official capacity. He said the two men are friends with Roethlisberger and did not witness any criminal activity or inappropriate behavior. He said the officers "have no memory" of meeting his accuser.
Lt. Myra A. Taylor, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania State Police, said Thursday night the agency is getting a copy of the investigative report from Georgia authorities and will review it.
Roethlisberger also is being sued in civil court by a former Nevada hotel employee for an alleged sexual assault in 2008. No criminal charges were filed in that case.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is reviewing the Georgia case and Steelers president Art Rooney II said Thursday that the league and team probably won't settle on any punishment until after next week's draft.
Rooney said the team is prepared to discipline Roethlisberger now, but will wait for the league's decision. Roethlisberger told him that he will accept the punishment, Rooney said.
Prompted partly by the Roethlisberger incident, Goodell sent a memo last week to NFL owners, executives and head coaches emphasizing the importance of the league's personal conduct policy. According to the memo, first reported by the New York Times, the absence of criminal charges is not enough to excuse poor behavior.
"The policy makes clear that NFL and club personnel must do more than simply avoid criminal behavior," the memo said. "We must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, that promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful."
The Roethlisberger case has infuriated the Steelers.
"I have made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards," Rooney said. "We have made it very clear to Ben that there will be consequence for his actions, and Ben has indicated to us he is willing to accept those consequences."
AP Sports Writer Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.