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Roethlisberger says he did not rape casino hostess

RAMIT PLUSHNICK | 7/23/2009, 3:36 p.m.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday allegations by a Lake Tahoe casino hostess that he raped her a year ago are "reckless and false." A 31-year-old Nevada woman has filed a civil lawsuit alleging the Super Bowl winning quarterback raped her in a hotel penthouse last year.

The woman was working as a VIP casino host at Harrah's Lake Tahoe at the time, and claims in the lawsuit the rape took place in Roethlisberger's room after he called her on a bogus 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 read from a prepared statement for less than two minutes and did not respond to questions.

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

Roethlisberger vowed to fight what he called "outrageous allegations."

He said he would remain focused on the upcoming season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions. The Steelers open training camp on July 31.

Roethlisberger, who is not married, said he did not wish to 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."

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

Roethlisberger canceled a news conference set for Thursday to promote the show, but ABC spokesman Edwin Escobar said in an e-mail Wednesday that production will proceed as scheduled 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 do not plan to open a criminal investigation into the alleged incident, which the accuser says happened in July 2008 when Roethlisberger was in Lake Tahoe participating in a celebrity golf tournament.

Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Teresa Duffy said the accuser would have to file a criminal complaint to trigger an investigation.

"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."

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