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Focus turns to whether NFL, Steelers will discipline Roethlisberger

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Posted April 12, 2010 @ 4:51 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Updated April 12, 2010 @ 5:30 p.m. ET

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will not be charged in connection with an alleged sexual assault, Ocmulgee (Ga.) Judicial Circuit district attorney Fred Bright announced Monday. Roethlisberger had been under investigation after a woman alleged he had sexually assaulted her at a Milledgeville, Ga., nightclub in March.

"The sexual allegation against Mr. Roethlisberger cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," Bright said in explaining why charges would not be filed.

Bright also said that the accuser's lawyer had written to him on March 17 to tell him the accuser no longer wanted the case to be prosecuted. Bright said that even in absence of the accuser not wanting to pursue the matter further, the evidence in the case pointed to no charges being filed against Roethlisberger.

ESPN.com reported Monday that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with Roethlisberger this week.

Steelers team president Art Rooney released the following statement regarding Roethlisberger on Monday: "The investigation process in Georgia has been deliberate and the District Attorney's decision regarding Ben Roethlisberger speaks for itself.

"During the past few weeks I have met with Ben on a number of occasions, not only to discuss this incident, but also to discuss his commitment to making sure something like this never happens again. The Pittsburgh Steelers take the conduct of players and staff very seriously. Ben will now have to work hard to earn back the respect and trust of Steelers fans, and to live up to the leadership responsibilities we all expect of him.

"In the coming days Ben will meet with Commissioner Goodell to discuss his resolve to abide by the league's personal conduct standards. After consultation with the Commissioner, our organization will determine the next steps in this process."

Roethlisberger is facing a civil lawsuit in Nevada brought by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her in July 2008. Criminal charges were not brought against Roethlisberger, who has denied the allegations and has filed a countersuit.

 

The PFW spin

Roethlisberger will not face criminal charges, but whether he faces league or team discipline remains to be seen. Will commissioner Roger Goodell discipline Roethlisberger using the NFL's personal-conduct policy? And will the team take action against Roethlisberger? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Monday that Steelers president Art Rooney is considering disciplining Roethlisberger, with the paper, citing "multiple Steelers sources," saying that punishment, if handed out, could include a suspension. Rooney's statement Monday indicated the Steelers and NFL will be in contact regarding any possible discipline.

Developments on the league and team fronts will be watched closely. The NFL has strengthened its personal-conduct policy in Goodell's tenure in office. Also, the Steelers dealt WR Santonio Holmes on Sunday night for a mere fifth-round pick after seemingly reaching their breaking point with his off-field problems, which included a four-game substance-abuse suspension formally announced Monday. Holmes is also facing a civil lawsuit that alleges he threw a drink at a woman at an Orlando nightclub in March; he has denied the allegation, and he has not been criminally charged in connection with the allegation.

Roethlisberger, though not charged in connection with the alleged Georgia incident, was criticized by Bright, who, according to the Post-Gazette, said that if Roethlisberger were his son, he would tell him to "grow up." Bright said that Roethlisberger had "provided shots of alcohol" for his accuser, who was reportedly 20 years old, and other people in her group, as both hung out in a "VIP area" of the club.

With the criminal case closed against Roethlisberger, the focus turns to whether the NFL and/or the Steelers decide to discipline Roethlisberger nonetheless.

 

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