Roethsliberger’s decision not to talk places liberty over image

As authorities in Milledgeville, Ga., continue to investigate a claim that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a 20-year-old college student at a local night club, Roethlisberger’s lawyer has yet to agree to submit Roethlisberger to a comprehensive interview.

Roethlisberger not talking to authorities on advice of attorney Ed Garland.
Roethlisberger not talking to authorities on advice of attorney Ed Garland.

The U.S. Constitution provides all of us the right to remain silent. Under the Fifth Amendment, we cannot be compelled to testify against ourselves in criminal proceedings. In this case, but for a brief interview at the scene of the alleged crime, Roethlisberger has been taking full advantage of his right to say nothing.

And if freedom remains Roethlisberger’s goal, his lawyer, Ed Garland, apparently believes that silence represents the best way to preserve it.

The decision not to fully cooperate with the investigation could be driven by different factors. First, it’s possible that Roethlisberger is guilty as charged, and that he prefers neither to admit to a crime nor to compound the problem by lying to police. If that’s the case, Garland will force the prosecution to prove its case with no specific cooperation from Roethlisberger. (Of course, if Roethlisberger is guilty, then he deserves to be convicted, and to have a large cellmate who is a Ravens fan. Our system of justice, however, seeks to prevent unjust imprisonments, even if it means periodically — or more often — allowing the guilty to go free.)

It’s also possible that Roethlisberger is innocent, but that Garland believes that his client, well, isn’t very bright. (Garland would have a lot of company.) In that case, talking to the cops could give them ammunition for prosecution and a conviction that they don’t already have, even if it’s merely a case of Roethlisberger getting tied up in knots while he tries to explain himself.

There’s also a chance that, guilty or innocent, Garland wants to defer producing Roethlisberger until Garland has concluded his own investigation. This will allow Garland to funnel to his client the information that has been gathered, so that Roethlisberger will be aware of the potential traps, pitfalls and conflicts in the various accounts that have been given by other witnesses.

Regardless of the reason, Garland’s approach exposes Roethlisberger to extra scrutiny, criticism and doubt. The jurors on the Court of Public Opinion will wonder whether Roethlisberger has something to hide, and thus whether he might be guilty. Put simply, the average person thinks that the wrongfully accused don’t retreat to a shell. They shout their innocence from the rooftops and everywhere else.

Thus, with each passing day during which Roethlisberger hides behind lawyers and agents and Constitutional rights, he risks that more and more members of the general public will conclude that perhaps he did it, and that he’s simply gaming the system in order to become one of the many guilty men who go free. But if the overriding goal is the preservation of liberty, the approach makes sense. Not talking makes it harder for the authorities to persuade a prosecutor to pursue formal charges or a grand jury to indict.

Really, the best outcome for Roethlisberger will be no charges at all. That’s precisely what Garland is attempting to achieve.

Will the approach jeopardize Roethsliberger’s public image? Surely. Steps can be taken later to win the hearts and minds of football fans. The process becomes slightly more challenging if he’s trying to do it after being released from prison.

As authorities in Milledgeville, Ga., continue to investigate a claim that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a 20-year-old college student at a local night club, Roethlisberger’s lawyer has yet to agree to submit Roethlisberger to a comprehensive interview.

Roethlisberger not talking to authorities on advice of attorney Ed Garland.
Roethlisberger not talking to authorities on advice of attorney Ed Garland.

The U.S. Constitution provides all of us the right to remain silent. Under the Fifth Amendment, we cannot be compelled to testify against ourselves in criminal proceedings. In this case, but for a brief interview at the scene of the alleged crime, Roethlisberger has been taking full advantage of his right to say nothing.

And if freedom remains Roethlisberger’s goal, his lawyer, Ed Garland, apparently believes that silence represents the best way to preserve it.

The decision not to fully cooperate with the investigation could be driven by different factors. First, it’s possible that Roethlisberger is guilty as charged, and that he prefers neither to admit to a crime nor to compound the problem by lying to police. If that’s the case, Garland will force the prosecution to prove its case with no specific cooperation from Roethlisberger. (Of course, if Roethlisberger is guilty, then he deserves to be convicted, and to have a large cellmate who is a Ravens fan. Our system of justice, however, seeks to prevent unjust imprisonments, even if it means periodically — or more often — allowing the guilty to go free.)

It’s also possible that Roethlisberger is innocent, but that Garland believes that his client, well, isn’t very bright. (Garland would have a lot of company.) In that case, talking to the cops could give them ammunition for prosecution and a conviction that they don’t already have, even if it’s merely a case of Roethlisberger getting tied up in knots while he tries to explain himself.

There’s also a chance that, guilty or innocent, Garland wants to defer producing Roethlisberger until Garland has concluded his own investigation. This will allow Garland to funnel to his client the information that has been gathered, so that Roethlisberger will be aware of the potential traps, pitfalls and conflicts in the various accounts that have been given by other witnesses.

Regardless of the reason, Garland’s approach exposes Roethlisberger to extra scrutiny, criticism and doubt. The jurors on the Court of Public Opinion will wonder whether Roethlisberger has something to hide, and thus whether he might be guilty. Put simply, the average person thinks that the wrongfully accused don’t retreat to a shell. They shout their innocence from the rooftops and everywhere else.

Thus, with each passing day during which Roethlisberger hides behind lawyers and agents and Constitutional rights, he risks that more and more members of the general public will conclude that perhaps he did it, and that he’s simply gaming the system in order to become one of the many guilty men who go free. But if the overriding goal is the preservation of liberty, the approach makes sense. Not talking makes it harder for the authorities to persuade a prosecutor to pursue formal charges or a grand jury to indict.

Really, the best outcome for Roethlisberger will be no charges at all. That’s precisely what Garland is attempting to achieve.

Will the approach jeopardize Roethsliberger’s public image? Surely. Steps can be taken later to win the hearts and minds of football fans. The process becomes slightly more challenging if he’s trying to do it after being released from prison.

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