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Published: Tuesday, 6/22/2010

Closed case, open files

Any questions about the thoroughness of an investigation into Ben Roethlisberger's actions in a Georgia nightclub on a March night were answered last week with the release of hours of taped interviews.

The CDs and DVDs, 59 in all, show investigators carefully questioning the 20-year-old college student who said the 28-year-old quarterback sexually assaulted her and others; some of her friends; Steelers lineman Willie Colon; other friends of Mr. Roethlisberger; Milledgeville police officers, and others.

Investigators were direct and prodded witnesses to be forthcoming, even when the answers reflected poorly on their own judgment and actions.

Mr. Roethlisberger did not submit to questioning, so no defense is offered. Even with that caveat, though, two things are obvious after viewing the videos and listening to the audio recordings: Mr. Roethlisberger's behavior was crude and reprehensible at best, and the decision of the local district attorney not to file criminal charges against him was correct.

The young woman was so drunk that Sgt. Jerry Blash, who questioned her, said he became frustrated and angry.

He said when he asked her if she had been raped, she said “No,” but then said Mr. Roethlisberger had sex with her over her objections.

She provided different descriptions of what took place in an interview that was audiotaped soon after the March 5 incident and in a second one made about 12 hours later.

It is hard to believe that a jury could have concluded that her testimony was credible when, as Sergeant Blash stated, she answered at one point that she was “not sure” whether she'd had sex with Mr. Roethlisberger.

Much of the detail played out on the CDs and DVDs was known before they were released because authorities in Georgia provided extensive investigative documents in April, after District Attorney Fredric Bright announced he would not prosecute in the incident.

Still, the videotapes are compelling in much the same way that hearing a witness testify in a courtroom is more illuminating and powerful than reading a transcript of the words uttered.

There is value in allowing the public to see the investigative materials for themselves. Citizens are best served when more information is open to their inspection.

Most of the lessons from this abhorrent incident are for Mr. Roethlisberger, who must do far more than consent to TV interviews to repair his reputation.

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