Pals' video only footage of Roethlisberger's night out
By Carl Prine and Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — As the investigation continues into the alleged sexual assault here of a college student by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, new evidence is emerging about the evening and the "Benapalooza" entourage of beefy buddies who filmed their time partying together.
Carl Cansino, attorney for Capital City nightclub where the incident occurred early March 5, said Wednesday the footage is hardly "Girls Gone Wild." It was shot by an unnamed member of the quarterback's entourage in the nightclub's VIP room. It shows the 20 year-old Georgia College & State University sophomore with Roethlisberger around the time of the incident, he said.
Cansino said he wished the nightclub could provide security video recordings, but the system it uses recorded over the footage, and agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were unable to retrieve any evidence from recordings. No cameras were trained on the staff restroom near a dingy storage corridor where the assault allegedly occurred, he said.
"The DVD system overwrote itself," Cansino said. "Had it just been deleted, they might have been able to save some of it."
Cansino said the video made by Roethlisberger's buddies is the sort of tape anyone would make during a birthday celebration, which is what members of the group told investigators they were doing in this tiny Georgia town.
Witnesses said eight to 10 members of the group arrived in Milledgeville on March 4. Authorities say that, except for Roethlisberger, they've interviewed all of them — including vacationing Coraopolis police Officer Anthony Barravecchio, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ed Joyner and Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon.
GBI agents confirmed they have the tape but declined to comment on it, or on the fact that Roethlisberger hasn't talked to authorities since a brief interview with Milledgeville detectives in his Lake Oconee mansion about 30 miles away.
District Attorney Fred Bright hasn't decided whether to press charges or whether to turn the matter over to a grand jury. A grand jury in Baldwin County convenes in July and meets for six months, according to Cansino and court employees.
Cansino shared with investigators copies of the driver's license Capital City's bouncers seized from Roethlisberger's accuser weeks before she was seen with him. The date on the license was scratched and reworked to indicate she was born in June 1987 — two years before her actual birth.
The Tribune-Review does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse. The woman's Atlanta attorney, Lee Parks, did not return messages seeking comment.
"She presented the ID, but the security saw that it clearly was a fake birth date," said Cansino, a former county prosecutor. "Because she never got the chance to drink, security confiscated it and didn't turn her over for other charges."
According to Cansino, authorities told him the woman's blood alcohol level was above 0.20 percent — more than 10 times the legal limit for drivers younger than 21 in Georgia and more than twice the limit for older motorists.
"We believe that she obtained the alcohol from patrons, not from employees," said Cansino, who said bouncers removed one member of the woman's group from the VIP room that evening.
Roethlisberger's attorney, Edward T.M. Garland, declined to comment for this story. He insists authorities will file no charges in the case.
This is the second allegation of sexual assault leveled against Roethlisberger in nine months. He's fighting a civil lawsuit in Nevada filed by a female hotel employee who claims he raped her.
On Tuesday, GBI officials and Garland confirmed that investigators dropped their request for a DNA sample from Roethlisberger because there's no genetic material collected at the scene or from the young woman.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday that Roethlisberger's behavior remains a league priority.
"I didn't put that on the side," Goodell said at the conclusion of NFL owners meetings. "We take that issue very seriously. I'm focused on it."
Goodell could punish Roethlisberger for violating the league's personal conduct policy even if he is not charged with any crime. The lack of DNA evidence doesn't change his view of the situation, Goodell said.
The Steelers have said they will wait until the investigation concludes before making any decisions regarding Roethlisberger.