Roethlisberger legal battle heating up

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, August 22, 2009

RENO, Nev. — A lawyer for the woman who claims Ben Roethlisberger raped her at Lake Tahoe last summer is asking a judge to sanction the Steelers quarterback’s legal team, saying they tried to ‘‘bully’’ her into dropping her civil lawsuit.

Roethlisberger’s lawyers tried to smear the woman with an affidavit from an ex-friend who said the sex in Roethlisberger’s room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe hotel-casino was consensual and that the woman bragged about it, said Cal Dunlap, her Reno lawyer.

He also said in a motion filed Thursday in Washoe District Court in Reno that Roethlisberger’s lawyers made a settlement offer this week suggesting they might countersue her for defamation — a move Dunlap said ‘‘borders on criminal extortion.’’

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Roethlisberger’s lawyers said in the offer that a ‘‘conspiracy to extort and defame’’ him has seriously harmed his potential earnings in excess of $20 million.

Settlement alternatives outlined in the offer included one scenario where Roethlisberger would release both the woman and Dunlap from any legal liability if the woman dropped her lawsuit and wrote a letter of apology to the two-time Super Bowl winner.

Another said Roethlisberger would pay for a psychiatric evaluation of the woman but offered no other financial payment.

The woman contends in the lawsuit filed last month that Roethlisberger raped her in July 2008 while he was there to play in a celebrity golf tournament.

The woman reported the incident to Harrah’s security. But she said she never filed a criminal complaint because she feared Harrah’s would side with Roethlisberger and she would be fired. She also accused Harrah’s officials of orchestrating a cover-up.

The suit seeks a minimum of $440,000 in damages from Roethlisberger, at least $50,000 in damages from the eight Harrah’s officials named as defendants and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

Earlier this week, Roethlisberger lawyer W. David Cornwell provided The Associated Press and other news outlets with 18 pages of e-mails and texts purportedly between the 31-year-old woman and a male friend that Cornwell said prove she was not assaulted.

In one written less than 24 hours after the alleged rape, the woman writes about how much she has enjoyed entertaining the celebrities and VIPs.