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Woman cries rape as Big Ben faces bombshell lawsuit

IN the last year, Ben Roethlisberger led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl title and solidified his legacy as one of the game's great big-game quarterbacks.

But it's what happened at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in the summer of 2008 that is the big talk around Steelers camp as the quarterback gets ready to defend the team's championship.

A woman has filed a bombshell lawsuit saying Roethlisberger raped her in a hotel penthouse a year ago, a claim he vehemently denies. The woman never went to the authorities with her story, and it's unclear why she decided to file the lawsuit seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars a full year later.

"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," Roethlisberger lawyer David Cornwell said in a statement. "If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated."

The stunning allegations served as a major distraction for Roethlisberger, known as "Big Ben", as the Steelers get ready to report to camp next week. The Steelers and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell said they were looking into the allegations against Roethlisberger, who has won two Super Bowls in his five-year career and is one of the biggest names in sports.

"I don't know enough of the details, but it's a civil lawsuit. It's something that we obviously will look into," Goodell said on Tuesday when asked about it in New York during an unrelated news conference. "I've been in touch with the Steelers about it."

Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said the team was aware of the lawsuit, and "we are gathering information."

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of US$440,000 in damages from the quarterback, at least US$50,000 in damages from the Harrah's officials and an unspecified amount of punitive damages "sufficient to deter" Roethlisberger and the others "from engaging in such conduct in the future." The suit alleges hotel officials for Harrah's Lake Tahoe tried to cover up the incident.

The woman's lawsuit says she didn't file a criminal complaint because she feared Harrah's would side with Roethlisberger and she would be fired. She was working as an executive casino host last July during the golf tournament.


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