It’s safe to say that Nevada lawyer Calvin Dunlap cracked open a cold one and kicked up his tassled loafers Friday night, after learning that the sexual assault case brought by a former Harrah’s employee against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suddenly had gotten stronger.
Technically, the question of whether Roethlisberger assaulted a Georgia college student has no relevance to the question of whether he assaulted Dunlap’s client. As a practical matter, however, the incident creates real leverage against Roethlisberger.
TMZ reports that Dunlap says he will be “aggressively looking into this new case.”
Under the Nevada rules of evidence, Dunlap could find a way to introduce evidence of the “new case” into the trial of his own case, under what in many jurisdictions is known as “Rule 404(b).” Though character evidence generally is not admissible in civil cases, evidence of other acts can be used to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, and absence of mistake or accident.
And with a final ruling on whether the Georgia evidence can be used not likely to come in at the earliest until the eve of trial in Nevada, the specter of the Georgia incident will loom over the Nevada case, driving up its settlement value.
Meanwhile, the allegation surely has at least shaken the faith of those paid to represent Roethlisberger’s interests. Though it’s highly unlikely that any of the lawyers will abandon what defense firms like to call a “cost-insensitive client,” the passion they display on behalf of their clinet might be a bit harder to manufacture if they’re beginning to secretly fantasize about a possible Al Pacino opening statement.
So even though anything Roethlisberger did or didn’t do in Georgia or anywhere else doesn’t change what did or didn’t occur in Nevada, the new incident could be used to help convince a jury that the plaintiff in the Nevada case is telling the truth — and that’s why Dunlap will chase down every available detail.