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Steelers QB accused of sexual assault in Georgia

Associated Press Modified: March 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm •  Published: March 5, 2010

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's night of bar-hopping in a central Georgia college town ended with a new allegation against him after a 20-year-old college student told police he sexually assaulted her in a nightclub.

The two-time Super Bowl winner already faces a lawsuit from a woman who claims he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel and casino, an allegation he strongly denies. Roethlisberger has not been charged in either case.

The latest accusation came early Friday in downtown Milledgeville, about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta and about 30 miles south of the lake home the player owns.

Roethlisberger, who turned 28 on Tuesday, and two or three friends went to Buffington's bar earlier Thursday night to watch the University of Pittsburgh men's college basketball game, said Paul Kurcikevicus, a 24-year-old college student.

He said the group was friendly, at first joking that Roethlisberger was not the NFL player. Kurcikevicus said Roethlisberger bought shots for him and some other people in the bar: "O-Bombs," a mixture of energy drink and flavored rum.

The student said Roethlisberger got excited at the end of the game, when a Pitt player hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to win 73-71 and avoid an upset by Providence.

The group later went to The Brick restaurant nearby, owner Frank Pendergrast said.

"He was very polite with everybody," Pendergrast said. "He was down here from about 11:30 until about 1:30 having a good time, talking to a lot of people. Looked like he was signing autographs and letting people take pictures. Other than that, it was really uneventful."

Roethlisberger was later seen at Capital City, a popular nightclub for students at Georgia College State University in Milledgeville. The club was bustling Friday night, with a country band playing and a $20 cover charge.

One patron, 21-year-old college student Brandon Harris, said he saw Roethlisberger come in the night before with two or three big men, who were keeping other club goers away from the player. Harris said the group went into a curtained VIP area in the back of the club, and some women were let inside.

What happened next is under investigation.

Deputy Police Chief Richard Malone said Roethlisberger had been with three other people who were mingling with another group that included the alleged victim. Malone said the woman and her party contacted a nearby police officer following the alleged assault.

"He's been identified as being at the scene and there are allegations naming him as the perpetrator," Malone said.

Several areas of the nightclub were considered a crime scene, Malone said, but he would not elaborate. The nature of the assault was not described, but Malone did say it was being termed a sexual assault, not a rape.

Roethlisberger and the alleged victim were interviewed and the woman was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released, Malone said.

The woman was not identified by police and The Associated Press does not generally identify possible victims of sexual abuse.

Police said Roethlisberger and his attorney were cooperating with investigators. He was not in custody and has not been charged with a crime.

The player's agent, Ryan Tollner, said in a statement they are skeptical of the motive of the alleged victim in Milledgeville because of the previous Lake Tahoe allegations.

"Last night, Ben and his friends met a group of women and everyone mingled together throughout the evening," the agent's statement said. "We have spoken to law enforcement. Based on information currently available, an allegation was made against Ben, which appeared to be dismissed after a preliminary investigation last night. Obviously, given the prior accusation against Ben, we are skeptical of motive, but we will continue to cooperate with everyone involved."

Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said the team was gathering information and had no more comment.

As Pittsburgh's first-round draft pick out of Miami of Ohio in 2004, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to Super Bowl victories in 2006 and 2009. But he has had his share of problems off the field.

His previous accuser was working as a VIP hostess at Harrah's Lake Tahoe in July 2008 when she alleges Roethlisberger lured her to his room under false pretenses and forced himself on her. He was in town playing in a celebrity golf tournament.

Roethlisberger maintains the woman acted voluntarily at all times while in his room. His lawyers have said the fact that she never filed a formal criminal complaint with police is proof she made up the story to try to secure a big payout from the NFL star.

Her lawsuit seeks at least $440,000 from Roethlisberger and at least $50,000 from Harrah's claiming they conspired to cover up the incident.

Roethlisberger broke his jaw and several other facial bones in 2006 when he got into a motorcycle crash while driving without a valid license.


Associated Press Writer Don Schanche in Atlanta contributed to this report.


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