Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roethlisberger, And Rooney, Approach Judgment Day; Police Answers To Develop Later

Ben Roethlisberger read a statement written by agents and edited by lawyers expressed his "gratitude" to prosecutors, his apologies to teammates and employers and his aspiration to be a "role model for kids" last week, standing between cameras and football lockers shortly after District Attorney Lou Bright announced that Roethlisberger would not be charged with crimes for mistreating a drunken college girl in the nightclub bathroom into which he had followed her.

What was missing from his sincere-as-a-pump-fake statement (other than a "Play For Jesus" moment)? Any reference to the girl who told law enforcement authorities the Steelers quarterback "kind of raped" her.

Perhaps Roethlisberger figured he had already given at his lawyer's office -- it is plausible he arranged a civil settlement, which would explain the girl's switch to no-cooperation mode with authorities -- but an apology to her seemed appropriate.

Roethlisberger embarrassed himself -- and suggested a continuing disconnect with reality -- by saying of the prosecutor's decision, "I know without a doubt it is the right conclusion." There is plenty of doubt -- the evidence, including victim's statements, indicated that Roethlisberger and his bodyguards preyed on an incapacitated girl -- and all seemed eligible for charges among rape, contributing to a minor's delinquency, providing alcohol to a minor, indecent exposure, false imprisonment, lying to police, and aiding and abetting certain crimes.

The district attorney explained a careful and just decision-making process, involving an uncooperative victim, and his judgment deserves respect. A reasonable prosecutor could have decided differently -- for example, with respect to the decision that showing leniency to a traumatized minor with with respect to alcohol charges required corresponding leniency toward adults who provided alcohol to her -- but the district attorney made a reasonable judgment call. (Which explains Roethlisberger's inability to understand it.)

Even without the alcoholic haze, the girl likely was confused when Roethlisberger entered the rest room she occupied, his genitals exposed, and closed the door. She might have been hoping a police officer was nearly. Two, of course, were -- one had guided her toward the rendezvous, and another was running interference for the quarterback, blocking other girls attempting to reach their friend, according to eyewitness reports provided to police. Those are points for examination by the Pennsylvania State Police and Coraopolis Police Department, the lame, unpersuasive and likely counterproductive mumblings of lawyer Michael Santicola notwithstanding.

The Steelers and National Football League reportedly will determine discipline for Roethlisberger tomorrow. As Art Rooney II approaches his decision and statement to the public, he might consider his family, and this question: Does he ever intend to permit his innocent-as-O.J. quarterback to spend time alone with any of his three daughters, or any young woman he cares about?

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