Christian Boone , Bill Torpy and Bill Rankin provide a detailed and disturbing account of how police — especially Sgt. Jerry Blash — investigated a Milledgeville, Georgia woman's allegation that Roethlisberger raped her. Of this allegation, Roethlisberger now says, "Though I have committed no crime, I regret that I have fallen short of the values instilled in me by my family." It's not clear exactly what he means by this — but it does seem that he'll escape criminal prosecuton. The missteps below, which read like a primer on how not to handle a rape case, may explain why:
Sgt. Blash reportedly intimidated the alleged victim and tried to discourage her from filing charges.
A friend of the victim says Blash told her, "You can file a statement but this man has a lot of money and good attorneys." When the victim asked "whether she should just forget she was raped and not file charges," Blash reportedly "became defensive [...] accusing the alleged victim of trying to put words in his mouth." Says former DeKalb County (Georgia) District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, "With that kind of attitude, what victim would want to go through with a prosecution?" So while the victim's unwillingness to press charges has been cited as a reason for dropping the case, police themselves may have influenced this unwillingness.
No one secured the crime scene.
Milledgeville police apparently don't watch Law & Order: SVU. Boone, Torpy, and Rankin write, "The crime scene was never sealed off, and 12 hours after the alleged assault occurred, the club's janitor swabbed the bathroom with Clorox and Pine-Sol."
No one formally questioned Roethlisberger.
Blash did talk to Roethlisberger at the club where the alleged rape occurred. But Roethlisberger was on the phone through most of the conversation. This doesn't sound up like behavior of someone concerned about clearing his name — it sounds like the indifference of an entitled man assuming he'll get off. Which brings us to ...
The police were cozy with Roethlisberger from the beginning.
After the victim made her accusation, Blash immediately notified Roethlisberger and his "associates." One associate says Blash announced: "We have a problem, this drunken [expletive], drunk off her ass, is accusing Ben of rape." Even leaving out the slurs against the alleged victim, the statement is pretty horrifying — why should Milledgeville law enforcement and Roethlisberger's camp be a "we?" Maybe because Blash and "Ben" took a photo together earlier in the night?
Of course, it's not out of the ordinary for celebrities to need police protection. But police are supposed to protect them from assault, not from the consequences of assaulting other people. And a cop who becomes buddy-buddy with a celebrity like Roethlisberger shouldn't be the same person questioning his alleged rape victim — and filing the initial report. While some details of the case remain murky — in part because of poor police work — one thing that's clear is that being a male sports star is a big advantage when you're accused of a crime. And given Blash's treatment of Roethlisberger, it would be no surprise if others of his stature felt they could assault women with impunity. At this point, Roethlisberger won't be indicted — all we can do to prevent this happening again is to highlight the system of privilege that apparently makes certain celebrities above the law, and strive to dismantle it.
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