Thursday, October 22, 2009
Judge rules evidence sufficient for suit
RENO, Nev. -- A Nevada judge denied a motion Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of raping a woman at a hotel-casino in Lake Tahoe.
Washoe District Court Judge Brent Adams also refused a request by a lawyer for the two-time Super Bowl champ to sanction the woman's attorney for pursuing the case without sufficient evidence.
The judge said in a one-page order that Cal Dunlap, a lawyer and former district attorney, had met the minimal standards required to avoid the imposition of sanctions in his representation of the former VIP host at Harrah's Lake Tahoe who accused the quarterback of sexually assaulting her and Harrah's of covering it up.
"I'm not surprised by the judge's ruling," Dunlap said. He declined further comment.
David Cornwell, Roethlisberger's lead attorney, said in a statement the judge's ruling suggests he was giving the woman "the benefit of the doubt at a stage in the proceedings where a full examination of her contemporaneous statements and conduct is premature."
The suit seeks a minimum of $440,000 in damages from Roethlisberger and at least $50,000 in damages from Harrah's officials regarding the alleged incident in July 2008 in a penthouse across the street from the upscale Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Roethlisberger was in town for a celebrity golf tournament.
He has denied the allegations and 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.
In a filing last week, the lawyers sought a minimum of $10,000 in counter damages, saying the accuser's "overzealous" lawyers "turned a blind eye to evidence, no matter how credible, that cast their client's story in doubt."
Franklin Brockway Gowdy, another lawyer for the quarterback, wrote in the filing that the complaint "is based on the fantastical imaginings of a desperate woman with significant credibility issues."
"In contrast to this house of lies slapped together with two sticks and duct tape, Mr. Roethlisberger is armed with the truth," Gowdy wrote.
The woman alleged in her lawsuit that Roethlisberger lured her to his room under the false pretense of needing his television repaired. She said she didn't file a criminal complaint because she feared Harrah's would side with Roethlisberger and she would be fired.
The woman said she determined the TV was functioning properly but as she turned to leave, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback blocked her exit.
She claims he grabbed her and started to kiss her, and she was "shocked and stunned that this previously friendly man, that appeared to be a gentleman in her previous contacts with him was suddenly preventing her from leaving, was assaulting her and battering her."
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 to no avail.