The manager of the club where Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is accused of having sexually assaulted a 20-year-old Georgia woman said Thursday one of the woman's friends told him a bodyguard of Roethlisberger's had denied her entrance to the area leading to the bathroom where she believed the accuser and Roethlisberger were that night.
The accuser told police later that night that Roethlisberger had assaulted her in the club's bathroom.
Rocky Duncan, the manager of Capital City bar in Milledgeville, Ga., said Roethlisberger and his entourage of "about nine" people, not including the accuser or her friends, arrived at the bar at approximately 1:10 a.m. Duncan said a member of Roethlisberger's group had asked for VIP seating in a private section of the club and for a bouncer from the club to be stationed outside the area. Duncan recalled that the Roethlisberger friend said, "We want the girls [to be allowed back into that section]."
Duncan said he escorted Roethlisberger and his group into the back room of the club, sealed off by a curtain, that serves as the VIP area. A bouncer stationed outside the curtain allowed women into the VIP area.
Later in the evening, according to Duncan, most of Roethlisberger's group had wandered from the VIP area to a larger room that opens up off it -- a room also closed to the general public. Duncan said there were about 25 people in that area, called "the stage room."
Duncan said he saw Roethlisberger standing and talking with what appeared to be a woman sitting on a stool a few feet from the bathroom door, which was separated from the stage room by a 4-foot divider. Roethlisberger's frame blocked Duncan from seeing the woman. But Duncan added he had never seen the accuser and did not know what she looked like. Duncan said a member of Roethlisberger's entourage, whom he called "the ringleader," was sitting on a stool about a foot away from the door that led to the area where Roethlisberger and the woman had been talking.
Approximately 30 seconds after he saw Roethlisberger talking to the woman, Duncan said one of the accuser's friends approached Duncan and said, "I think my friend is in the bathroom with Ben, but the door [leading to the bathroom area] is locked, and I'm trying to get back there, and this guy wouldn't let me through." Duncan said she also told him, "I think my friend may be drunk."
Duncan said the accuser's friend "did not seem frantic, it was someone just looking for her friend." He said he told the woman she could either try to hop over the divider that separated the stage room from the bathroom area or "go around to the back and go through the backside entrance, because that door doesn't have a handle to it and you can go in that way." Duncan said he didn't know if the woman tried to get back into the bathroom area.
When asked if he thought there was anything alarming about the fact that a member of Roethlisberger's group was standing outside of a locked door, forbidding someone from going into that area, Duncan said, "No, not really. Those guys had been protective of Ben all night. You wouldn't want someone taking a snapshot of Ben using the toilet."
Duncan said the music wasn't playing loudly enough that if a person screamed, people wouldn't have heard it. ESPN contacted the two women who were listed in the police report as being with the accuser that night, to ask for comment or corroboration. One said, "I can't comment on any of this, I'm sorry"; the other woman hung up.
Roethlisberger's attorney, Ed Garland, was not immediately available for comment.
Duncan said he learned someone had made an accusation against Roethlisberger when "I got a call from Sgt. [Jerry] Blash, and he said a young woman approached him and said Ben assaulted her. He asked if they [Roethlisberger's group] were still at the club, and I said, 'Yes.' "
Duncan said police came to the club and spoke "briefly" with Roethlisberger and his group, in what Duncan described as an informal way. When asked if Roethlisberger seemed inebriated, Duncan said, "You see a lot at a bar. Was he the drunkest person I ever met? No. Did he have a buzz? Probably."
Duncan added that Roethlisberger signed a football for him.