Roethlisberger vehemently denies casino employee's rape allegations

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger vowed Thursday to fight a casino hostess' rape allegations against him, calling them "false and vicious."

Roethlisberger was served with a civil lawsuit last weekend when he returned to Lake Tahoe, where a 31-year-old Nevada woman alleges the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback raped her in a hotel penthouse in July 2008. Roethlisberger was in Nevada on both occasions to compete in a celebrity golf event.

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The woman didn't file a criminal complaint.

"Saturday was the first I heard of her accusations," Roethlisberger said. "Her false and vicious allegations are an attack on my family and on me. I would never, ever force myself on a woman."

In his first public comments on the matter, Roethlisberger read a statement at the Steelers' practice complex in Pittsburgh. Dressed in a brown pinstriped suit with no tie, Roethlisberger spoke for less than two minutes and didn't respond to questions.

Roethlisberger was accompanied by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin; his agent, Ryan Tollner; and his attorney, David Cornwell. They all left immediately after the statement was read.

Roethlisberger, who isn't married, said he would fight what he called "outrageous allegations," but said he wouldn't discuss his private life or the lawsuit in the media.

"The allegations against me are reckless and false," Roethlisberger said. "As much as I'd like to answer everyone's questions, I'm going to respect the legal process, and I'm confident that the truth will prevail."

The woman alleges she was working as a VIP casino host at Harrah's Lake Tahoe and claims the rape took place in Roethlisberger's room after he called her on a bogus complaint about the television.

According to the lawsuit, Harrah's executives have been aware of the allegations for months. It says the woman's lawyer, Cal Dunlap, sent a letter to Harrah's executives on April 2 "informing them of the assault that had taken place on July 11, 2008." It also says Harrah's lawyers responded on April 13 to "dissuade plaintiff from pressing claims against Roethlisberger... and Harrah's."

Cornwell didn't immediately return a telephone call or e-mail seeking comment.

Roethlisberger said he would remain focused on the upcoming season with the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. The team begins its training camp on July 31 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, a town about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Minutes after Roethlisberger finished his statement, NBA star Shaquille O'Neal walked into the media room in the Steelers' headquarters. Roethlisberger is participating in O'Neal's new reality television series.

Roethlisberger canceled a news conference to promote the show, but ABC spokesman Edwin Escobar said in an e-mail Wednesday that filming is set for Friday. In the show "Shaq Vs." debuting Aug. 18, Roethlisberger is one of the athletes O'Neal will challenge in their respective sports.

Law enforcement officials in Nevada said Wednesday they don't plan to open a criminal investigation into the alleged incident. Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Teresa Duffy said the accuser would have to file a criminal complaint to trigger a police probe.

"The victim is the only one who can do that," Duffy told The Associated Press. "Unless there was a third party that actually witnessed the incident which, according to the civil case, was not the case here."

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $440,000 in damages from the quarterback, at least $50,000 in damages from the Harrah's officials and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

According to the lawsuit, the woman didn't file a criminal complaint because she feared Harrah's would side with Roethlisberger and she would be fired. The suit doesn't reveal whether the woman is still working for Harrah's but alleges that hotel officials went to great lengths to cover up the incident.

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

Earlier this week, Cornwell issued a statement on Roethlisberger's behalf saying, "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."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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