You'd be wrong.
Big Ben is in a huge mess, one that could potentially keep him off the field this upcoming season and more. As a lawyer, it's amazing to me that this story hasn't gotten more attention than it has. Given that Big Ben is one of the 20 most famous players in the NFL, a two-time Super Bowl winner, and the quarterback of one of the five most popular teams in the most popular sport in American history, the relative lack of solid analysis is astounding.
Particularly in our heightened media environment when merely cheating on your wife can lead the news cycle for months. The comparative media silence is deafening.
I think that's partly because people don't realize the seriousness of these allegations or the penalties that could ensue.
I spent the past two days on the phone with Georgia lawyers -- public defenders and district attorneys -- the men and women who would typically defend or prosecute criminal cases in Georgia courts to discuss the particulars of this incident. Here's what I learned.
1. First and foremost, per those lawyers, it's time to examine the city of Milledgeville and Baldwin County in Georgia. This is not the place where you want charges brought against you if you're an NFL star.
In fact, there may not be a worse place to be accused of committing a sexual assault in the country than a small town in the South.
Here are some demographics for you from the 2000 census: 18,757 people live in Milledgeville, the county seat of Baldwin county. Those city natives have an average household income of just $30,484. As for the county of Baldwin, the population expands, but not much, to just 46,057 people in the county.
From this, the jury pool would be drawn.
The population in the county is 54 percent white, 46 percent black.
This is a rural, mostly poor, county. Big Ben's lawyers already know that if charges are filed they'll attempt to move the case to another jurisdiction arguing that the jury pool in Baldwin County has been tainted and their client can't get a fair trial. They'll believe that, but they'll also be scrambling to get their client before a better jury pool.
Currently Ben Roethlisberger is halfway through a $102 million contract.
You think he's going to draw a lot of sympathy from a small town jury?
2. In criminal cases, celebrities want to be in cities on the coasts, where, surprisingly, jurors are more prone to deferring to celebrity status.
Recall, Mike Tyson went away to prison after being convicted of rape in a conservative city – Indianapolis, Ind. Big Ben's lawyers would do cartwheels if this incident had occurred in Indianapolis, instead of a tiny Georgia town. Even conservative city jurors like those in Indianapolis are more likely to be lenient than conservative small-town jurors who are facing -- and this is key -- an outsider who has come into their state, city, and town and is alleged to have taken advantage of one of their own.
Often jurors end up siding with whichever party they can identify with best.
Here, do you think they'll have more in common with a local college girl or with a yankee, multi-million dollar quarterback?
Yeah, thought so.
That's why Big Ben should be so nervous.
3. Both sides are lawyering up in expectation that this case is going to last a while.
Big Ben went with a big-city lawyer from Atlanta who has done well litigating criminal cases in the city. Often big city lawyers rub local jurors the wrong way. So, as this case proceeds and if charges are brought, look for Big Ben to also retain local criminal defense counsel.
Meanwhile, the victim retained counsel from a small Atlanta firm.
Why would the victim retain counsel already? Because she's going to file a civil lawsuit against Big Ben regardless of what happens with the criminal investigation.
That means this case, criminal and civil, is likely going to last ... a long time.
Recall that Kobe Bryant eventually settled his Colorado rape case after the criminal case ended because the victim refused to testify. Even when the criminal case against him crumbled, Bryant still paid out to settle the civil case.
Now's probably a good time to give a quick refresher; criminal cases are brought and prosecuted by the state whereas civil cases are brought by individuals or corporations. The penalty for criminal cases is imprisonment; the penalty in civil cases is typically monetary.
The primary difference between the two avenues of the law comes in the amount of evidence required to find a defendant culpable. Criminal cases require guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; civil cases only require that someone is liable according to the preponderance of the evidence, a more likely than not standard. The best athlete example of this duality is O.J. Simpson, who was found innocent for the murders in his criminal trial, but was still civilly liable for the duo's death.
So even if Big Ben can dodge criminal sanctions, he's still going to have to answer for his actions in a civil context.
4. Parse the purported victim's statement released yesterday to see the battle lines already being drawn.
Here is the statement:
"Their daughter has done the right thing and reported this matter to the police. She has been, and will be, available to the authorities to assist them in the criminal investigation. While the matter is under investigation, we ask you to respect her privacy, keep her name out of the press and allow the family space and time to heal."
What's the second word in this statement?
Did you even notice that on your first reading?
The victim's lawyers are already attempting to define this girl as a daughter. Why? Because we all have or know daughters, and the idea of a daughter being attacked makes our blood boil. Conversely, as this case moves forward, the defense counsel will be attempting to define this "daughter" as a money-hungry, party girl who sought out Big Ben and got what she was after.
Because money-hungry party girls are more prone to make up stories.
And we're going to have a public relations duel over this girl's image before all is said and done.
Go back and reread what Kobe Bryant's lawyers did to his accuser in Colorado.
5. Who is the real Ben Roethlisberger?
It's not just the victim who is going to attempt to define herself, it's the man who she alleges assaulted her as well.
Is this man a deviant sexual predator, as the prosecutors or civil plaintiffs will allege, or is he just a regular guy, a momma's boy who loves his sisters?
Expect his lawyers to immediately make efforts to strip away his celebrity identity and define him as something other than a quarterback. Whenever he speaks on this incident, and he will speak, it's likely that Big Ben's family will need to be present at his statement.
Because Big Ben is a son and brother, too. His mom died in a car accident when he was young. So he'll want his sister there with him because he's not married and doesn't have any other family members to vouch for his regular guy status.
Recall that Kobe Bryant, when he denied raping his accuser, sat alongside his wife. Later, his children made an appearance at the press conference.
That was by design.
In he-said, she-said cases, the difficult minefield of sexual encounters, our perceptions of the men and women involved in the case often govern our beliefs as to what happened between the two.
6. The hospital report will decide what charges, if any, are brought in a criminal case.
The most difficult of all criminal cases is a he-said, she-said battle.
Because there are only two direct witnesses to an incident, someone's story has to more true than someone else's.
But how do authorities determine whose word to trust, and perhaps more importantly, whose word they can convince a jury to believe?
They rely on the hospital report provided in the immediate moments after an alleged sexual assault.
This report will be the single most important piece of evidence, and the witnesses associated with the report will be the most important other than the two parties in question.
7. Will the NFL be forced to act under the personal conduct policy?
I think so.
Because we have a pattern of allegations relating to Big Ben's sexual misconduct. While the previous case alleging rape was a civil lawsuit, the alleged misconduct is disturbing enough that, in conjunction with this allegation, Big Ben has violated the terms of the NFL's nebulous policy.
As we wait for more details of this alleged sexual assault to emerge, keep in mind the seven points listed above. They provide a good road map for where this incident is heading, and let you know that this case is even more serious than the media has suggested so far.
Clay Travis a licensed attorney and graduate of Vanderbilt Law School.