Police ties to Roethlisberger still in question
PITTSBURGH – A state trooper with Ben Roethlisberger the night he was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in a Georgia nightclub is subject to the agency’s code of conduct regardless of whether he was working for the Steelers quarterback, state police said.
An ongoing internal investigation will determine whether Trooper Ed Joyner did anything “that could reasonably be expected to destroy public respect for the Pennsylvania State Police or confidence in the state police,” said Lt. Myra Taylor, a state police spokeswoman.
A friend of the accuser said in a statement to police that a “bodyguard” refused to acknowledge that the woman, who had been drinking, was alone with Roethlisberger in the back of a nightclub in Milledgeville, Ga.
Ann Marie Lubatti told police on March 5 that she told the bodyguard, “This isn’t right. My friend is back there with Ben. She needs to come back right now.”
Lubatti said the bodyguard wouldn’t look her in the eye and said he didn’t know what she was talking about.
Georgia investigators later identified that man as Joyner.
Taylor said Joyner had permission from the state police to work off-duty for Roethlisberger since 2005, with his duties including answering phones and fan mail, driving and accompanying the quarterback to charitable events. Joyner’s request to work for Roethlisberger does not include the term “bodyguard” nor is there any reference made to personal protection or similar duties, Taylor said.
A reporter who called Joyner’s barracks Friday was referred to Taylor for comment. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the trooper’s home phone number.
Roethlisberger’s accuser said in a March 5 statement that the NFL player had sex with her after she was led by another bodyguard – identified by investigators as Coraopolis, Pa., police officer Anthony Barravecchio – to an isolated area in the club.
“Meanwhile, his bodyguards told my friends they couldn’t pass them to get to me,” she wrote in a statement the night of the incident.
Georgia officials announced earlier this week that Roethlisberger would not be charged in the case.
Michael Santicola, Barravecchio’s attorney, said Friday his client “did nothing immoral, nothing unethical and nothing illegal. And any statements made by drunken college girls otherwise is incorrect,” Santicola said.
In interviews with Georgia investigators, witnesses repeatedly described Joyner and Barravecchio as Roethlisberger’s “bodyguards.” The statements were among hundreds of pages of the investigative file made public Thursday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Santicola said Barravecchio used to work as Roethlisberger’s “personal assistant” but doesn’t anymore. Santicola said he didn’t know whether Barravecchio paid his own way on the trip but said he was “absolutely not” employed as Roethlisberger’s bodyguard at the club.
Coraopolis police Chief Alan DeRusso said Barravecchio is a friend of Roethlisberger’s and was on vacation when he went with him to Georgia. The officer is not suspended or under any kind of internal department investigation and remains on the schedule full-time, the chief said.
“The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has contacted me and as far as I was told from them, they needed nothing from me and they needed nothing from him,” DeRusso said.
DeRusso said his department doesn’t regulate outside work by officers.
Thomas Martinelli, a Michigan attorney and expert witness on police misconduct, said departmental policies on outside work vary widely. He said it’s a bad idea to let officers work as bodyguards while off duty because they could be injured, or open their departments to liability for their actions.
Outside job policies aside, most departments rely on the code of ethics of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “In there it says, ‘I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all,”‘ Martinelli said.
Referring specifically to the Roethlisberger situation, he said a police agency might well question the presence of officers that night.
“Could one make an ethical argument that these officers should have extricated themselves from this situation before it escalated?” Martinelli said. “You could make that argument on behalf of an agency.”
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