Attorney says his probe of Pa. officer who was with Roethlisberger in Ga. is inactive

By Joe Mandak, AP
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Solicitor: Roethlisberger officer probe inactive

PITTSBURGH — An internal investigation of a Pennsylvania police officer who was with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when the player was accused of sexual assault in Georgia is inactive, and that won’t change unless new information surfaces, the attorney who conducted the investigation said.

Solicitor Richard Start read a four-paragraph statement at the Coraopolis council meeting Wednesday but didn’t immediately say more about his inquiry into Officer Anthony Barravecchio.

“The status of the investigation regarding this matter is that it is currently inactive and it is expected to remain inactive unless new relevant information is received by the borough,” Start said.

Barravecchio was one of two police officers who witnesses say acted as bodyguards on March 5, when Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a college student at a Milledgeville, Ga., nightclub.

Roethlisberger denied the accusation, and Georgia prosecutors declined to charge him, citing a lack of evidence and reluctance by his accuser to press for charges. But the actions of Barravecchio and Pennsylvania State Trooper Ed Joyner have been the subject of internal investigations.

State police spokesman Jack Lewis said Wednesday the internal investigation of Joyner was continuing.

Barravecchio has not been suspended or otherwise disciplined during the investigation, and his status has not changed.

Start’s statement shed little new light on what he uncovered or why the investigation has stopped, though comments made by one councilman in the weeks leading up to the meeting suggested it stalled because witnesses couldn’t be compelled to travel to Pennsylvania to testify at a disciplinary hearing.

Councilman Anthony Celeste, who oversees public safety issues in the borough, about 10 miles west of Pittsburgh, told The Associated Press that Start told him, “In order for us to proceed for this, we have to bring people up from Georgia to testify.”

“If you don’t have these people in the area to testify, what charges do you conclude?” Celeste said. “I wasn’t in Georgia that night, the police chose not to charge Ben Roethlisberger and who am I to go chasing that?”

Start told the AP in April that he initially planned to base his investigation on a review of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s 500-page report on the incident. By May, Start said information in the file prompted him to investigate further, but he never explained why or what more he did to investigate.

On Wednesday, Start offered few clues, and his statement dealt mostly with telling the media that borough officials have been advised not to comment.

According to the GBI report, witnesses and Roethlisberger’s accuser say a man investigators later identified as Barravecchio escorted the 20-year-old woman down a hallway to a restroom, where she says Roethlisberger forced her to have sex.

Barravecchio’s attorney Michael Santicola has denied his client did anything wrong and specifically denied his client led the accuser to the restroom. Santicola and another attorney representing Barravecchio did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

The GBI report says Barravecchio told investigators he spent most of his time at the club seated on a barstool by the door to the back hallway and didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary.

Roethlisberger said, “Hey, show this girl where the bathroom is,” and Barravecchio told investigators he opened the door to the back hall and the woman followed him down the hall, giggling, according to Georgia investigators. When Barravecchio pointed to the bathroom she sat on a stool next to the bathroom door, where Barravecchio said he left her, according to the report. He said that he didn’t see anyone else go back there, it said.

Roethlisberger’s accuser told investigators she was on the stool when the quarterback walked down the hallway, exposing himself, before taking her into the restroom and assaulting her.

Pennsylvania state police permitted Joyner to work as Roethlisberger’s personal assistant, but the agency rescinded that permission because of the Georgia accusations. Joyner has appealed through the state troopers’ union.

Coraopolis has no similar rule requiring consent for outside work, though Start said he’s begun researching one.

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