After former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison was sued by the man who claimed Harrison shot him in Philadelphia nearly two years ago, I gave Harrison some free advice, for which he surely got his money's worth.
Settle the case.
Now that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger faces new sexual assault charges in Georgia, I'll give him some free advice, too.
Settle the case.
(If the advice wasn't free, I suppose I could double-bill them.)
During a Monday press conference, authorities in Milledgeville acknowledged that the woman accusing Roethlisberger of sexual assault has hired a lawyer. This means that, at some point, she'll sue the two-time Super Bowl-winning signal-caller.
So the best approach would be for Roethlisberger's lawyers to commence a dialogue with the alleged victim's lawyer and settle the case -- now. Perhaps there's a number north of $100,000 and south of $1 million that she'd take to waive any civil claims and drop her charges. Like Kobe Bryant's accuser nearly seven years ago, nothing takes the steam out of a criminal prosecution faster than a civil settlement.
(This doesn't mean that sexual assault is not a serious crime. The point here is that the mess has been made, and now Roethlisberger must decide how to clean it up, whether he's guilty or innocent or a little bit of both.)
The settlement needs to happen soon, before a decision is made to charge Roethlisberger with sexual assault. With a completely confidential settlement that entails an agreement to drop the charges, everyone can move on — and Roethslisberger can continue his career without having to deal with a civil trial like the one he faces in Nevada, or a criminal trial that could, in theory, put him in jail.
If or when formal charges are filed, it could be too late to salvage Roethlisberger's reputation, and possibly his career. The league and/or the Steelers would be forced to take some type of action in the wake of an indictment, possibly by suspending Roethlisberger until the case is resolved, just as the NFL did when Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted in 2007 on federal conspiracy charges relating to dogfighting and gambling.
Speaking of Vick, his ordeal would have been much less serious if he'd found a way quickly and cleanly to accept responsibility and move forward. The difference, of course, is Vick couldn't have entered into a civil settlement with his victims; he would have been required to work out a deal with prosecutors regarding potential criminal charges. Roethlisberger has the opportunity to placate his victim with a significant-yet-secret payment of cash, and to avoid any further legal jeopardy.
To be sure, any resolution of the charges, no matter how confidential, would trigger rumors and/or reports that Big Ben wrote a really big check. But the early moves Roethlisberger has made show he's not necessarily worried about good public relations this time around. Hiring the lawyer who represented Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis 10 years ago on murder charges, for example, invited suspicion that Roethslisberger has opted to try to buy his way out of a problem he created. Given the choice between his image and his liberty, Ben wisely is erring on the side of advancing the interests of the latter.
So instead of buying a big-time lawyer, why not buy his way out of the problem more directly? Guilty or innocent, the only way to obtain certainty before charges are filed is to dispense justice via the bank account.
In response to the civil claim of sexual assault made last July in Nevada, a full year after the alleged incident occurred, anger, stridence, and defiance were understandable reactions. In response to criminal charges made on the very evening that the latest incident supposedly happened, Roethlisberger needs to tread more lightly. He faces very real consequences, and instead of fighting tooth and nail, the best approach might be to offer up some dollars and cents.
It could be the only way Roethlisberger can quickly and decisively turn the page on this latest ugly chapter in his life.