Scott Sonner
The Associated Press

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July 21, 2009
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Roethlisberger accused of sex assault at South Tahoe casino

RENO, Nev. — A woman has filed a lawsuit accusing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of raping her last summer in his penthouse room at a casino in Lake Tahoe during a celebrity golf tournament.

Roethlisberger's lawyer adamantly denied the allegations on Tuesday, and was quick to point out that the woman never went to the authorities.

"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. If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated," David Cornwell said in a statement.

The suit seeks at least $440,000 in damages from the quarterback who won the Super Bowl this year and in 2006, and alleges hotel officials for Harrah's Lake Tahoe went to great lengths to cover up the incident. She's seeking $50,000 in damages from the Ha rrah's officials.

The woman's lawsuit says she didn't file a criminal complaint because she feared she would be fired and expected Harrah's would side with Roethlisberger.

The Steelers and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said they were looking into the allegations against Roethlisberger.

The woman was working as an executive casino host last July when Roethlisberger struck up a friendly conversation at her desk during the golf tournament.

The next night she said he telephoned her to tell her his television sound system wasn't working and asked her to look at it.

She said she was unable to find a technician so she decided to handle it herself because she had been told how important it was to please celebrities.

In Roethlisberger's room she said she determined the TV was functioning properly but as she turned to leave the quarterback stood in front of the door and blocked her, the suit claims.

The lawsuit said he then grabbed her, starte d to kiss her, fondled her, pushed her onto his bed and raped her, the suit says. She said she feared he could or would physically harm her if she tried to fight him off but that she objected and protested several times.

Afterward, he asked if there was a security camera in the hallway. She said he then instructed her to claim she had repaired his television if anyone asked why she was in his room.

The lawsuit says the woman required hospitalization for treatment for depression after the alleged attack.

The woman's lawyer, Calvin R. Dunlap, of Reno, declined to answer questions about the lack of a criminal complaint and why the civil action was brought a year after the incident allegedly took place.

"Neither I nor our client will be making any comment," Dunlap said in an e-mail to AP. "We believe the matter should be resolved in court rather than in the media."

The lawsuit also names eight Harrah's employees as defendants and alleges the cover-up involved the chief of security at Harrah's Lake Tahoe and was carried out with the knowledge of John Koster, president of Harrah's northern Nevada operations.

John Packer, spokesman for the hotel-casino, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The suit says Harrah's security chief Guy Hyder gained the trust of her parents while she was hospitalized for depression and persuaded them to give him a key to her home. She said Hyder and others then entered her home and allegedly erased information from her computer and confiscated it.

The lawsuit claims that when the woman first reported the attack to Hyder he dismissed her distress and crying and said she was "over reacting."

The woman said Hyder told her that "most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger."


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 21, 2009 06:28PM Published Jul 21, 2009 03:33PM Copyright 2009 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.