#146: Lay Off Big Ben. Now.
The only thing more irresponsible than Ben Roethlisberger flirting with underage girls in a Georgia bar early last month is the reckless journalistic vigilantism, both local and national, still trying to make him out to be a thuggish sexual predator despite the absence of criminal charges.
TMZ is leading the national smear campaign. For those who don't know TMZ, it is essentially the premier gossip tabloid on the internet. It thrives on rumors of social decadence and overscandalizing the famous.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh media has just never liked Big Ben, probably because he isn't as accessible to the media as other big-time athletes in the city like Sidney Crosby or Jerome Bettis. Therefore, he must be an obnoxious jerk 24/7.
Even one of the media members with credentials to get into the press conference called by Baldwin County District Attorney Fred Bright, asked such a barbed question, that should have been enough to have those creditials revoked:
Are you aware if the alleged victim or the bar owner at Capital City received compensation from Roethlisberger?
I'm sorry. I thought that there were going to be no charges filed. I would also "dare" to think that money trails would turn up in an investigation. Unless, of course, Ben just paid everyone off - bar owner, accuser, police, bouncers, and district attorneys alike.
That certainly does make more sense and is far less complicated than considering that no rape or sexual assault occured.
OK. No it doesn't.
Regardless of the lack of evidence, the public has swallowed all of what remains - hook, line and sinker.
This must be due to our world view for the past 15 years or so, ever since O.J. Simpson was acquitted of double murder back in 1995. Very few people today believe Simpson is innocent (myself included), and even a civil court ruled that Simpson owed the family of the deceased Ron Goldman money for wrongful death (an obvious contradiction from the criminal court findings).
Now, seemingly all celebrities who are accused of criminal activity are crucified in public, regardless of whether the case is ever heard in the courts.
In Roethlisberger's case, it's made no easier by the civil case he already faces in Nevada for a sexual assault that allegedly happened in 2008, according to the plaintiff, Andrea McNulty.
Upon reading this court filing (in PDF format - Adobe Acrobat), it is going to be difficult to convince a judge, or perhaps a jury, that the story is not a complete fabrication. It really begins to get "out there" on page 14 into page 15, when she accuses the other defendants in the suit (employees of Harrah's Casino in Lake Tahoe) that they tampered with her personal computer records to paint her as an unstable individual.
While a civil trial does not require "proof beyond a reasonable doubt," as a criminal trial does, the plausible-but-highly-unlikely back story doesn't scream in favor of a monetary award.
Back to Georgia, the public is labeling Roethlisberger as a "serial rapist" as though the accuser (note: not "victim") is as much a saint as the Steeler QB is a sinner.
Some simply say "he's done it before" (referring to Lake Tahoe), without reading the unlikely circumstances in the court filing above, and without taking into account that Roethlisberger has not been charged by law enforcement in a town that has no specific loyalty to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stories like this are the ones getting all the exposure.
Not stories that point to conflicting statements by the accuser and her friends. Again, from the Fred Bright press conference:
[T]he first words out of his lips, the police officer’s, he said, ‘Did he rape you?’ And her response was, ‘No.’ Next, the first officer said, ‘Did they have sex?’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m not sure.’ And then – and I’m giving you the spectrum here – we go to her first statement in her own handwriting, and I think it’s still pretty clear she was still intoxicated at that point; this was down at the Milledgeville police station. And she said in her own handwriting, ‘I don’t know if this is a good idea. He said It’s OK. He had sex with me.’ Then the progression will go to her second statement, in her own handwriting, and this is probably 12, 13 hours later, again at the Milledgeville police department. She’s sober by now and coherent, and in her own words she said, and this is in her handwriting, ‘I told him it wasn’t OK. No. We don’t need to do this. And I proceeded to get up and try to leave. I went to the first door I saw, which happened to be a bathroom. He followed me into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. I still said no. This is not OK. And he then had sex with me. He said it was OK.’ And I’ll give you one more at the hospital: The doctors and nurses have in quotes, and this will be coming from the victim, ‘A boy kind of raped me.’ I don’t really want to go any further than that, but I’m trying to give a fair spectrum of the progression from the initial statement.
The irresponsibility of the media and the prejudice of the public at large are (and already have) started to open the flood gates.
Could Ben be guilty in one or more of these allegations? Sure, but you have to show it to me by proving it to a jury, since I am not personally involved. Conspiracy theories and venomous labels amount to no more than a witch hunt.
In the meantime, the only judgment that I, or anyone else, can level is that Roethlisberger needs to start hanging out with women in (or close to) his own tax bracket.