Restaurant worker: I was fired over Big Ben's beef

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Restaurant worker: I was fired over Big Ben's beef

By SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A former restaurant worker claims he was fired
because he had demanded to see identification for a
young-looking woman at Ben Roethlisberger’s table where the NFL
quarterback and his friends were drinking.

Alvaro Brito, a former assistant manager at the Cabo Wabo
Cantina at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe who had worked for the company
for 12 years, said he was fired in July 2008 in a lawsuit filed
against the hotel-casino and its Lake Tahoe president John
Koster.

The new lawsuit, filed Sept. 25 in Washoe County District Court
in Reno and first reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal, does not
name Roethlisberger as a defendant. But it potentially has a
connection to a separate lawsuit filed by another former
Harrah’s employee against the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback,
Koster and a number of Harrah’s officials alleging that
Roethlisberger raped her at the hotel in July 2008 and that the
company covered it up.

Roethlisberger denies the allegation.

In the woman’s lawsuit, the former VIP hostess said a reason she
did not report the alleged sexual assault to police was because
she had been told that another employee had been fired, or was
about to be fired, as a result of Roethlisberger’s restaurant
complaint.

Brito’s lawsuit said he was working at Cabo Wabo on July 7,
2008, during the annual celebrity golf tournament across the
street when the dispute over the carding of the woman occurred.
The alleged rape victim said she was assaulted on July 11.

Brito said he was informed on July 14 that he had been suspended
specifically because of the incident over the woman’s
identification card.

Both lawsuits claim Koster was a big fan and friend of
Roethlisberger and that it had become general knowledge among
employees that they should go out of their way to please the
two-time Super Bowl winner.

Roethlisberger’s lawyers have maintained that the woman’s claim
she reported the incident to Harrah’s security – but chose not
to file a criminal complaint or contact police – was evidence
she had concocted the allegations that she was lured to his room
and sexually assaulted.

The Associated Press, as a matter of policy, does not identify
people who say they have been sexually assaulted.

Harrah’s spokesman John Packer told The Associated Press in an
e-mail the company does not comment on pending litigation.

David Cornwell, a lawyer for Roethlisberger, said in an e-mail
that “the cases are unrelated, except to the extent that two
opportunistic lawyers see a benefit in dragging Ben’s name into
their clients’ employment disputes.”

The woman said in a deposition for her lawsuit that Guy Hyder,
Harrah’s director of security, specifically had told her that
Koster “was a huge fan, and how important it was for me to
ensure that he had a nice trip.”

The court documents said Hyder also told her Roethlisberger had
been in the Cabo Wabo restaurant “and that he was not happy with
the way he was treated and that he reported the waitress and
manager to president John Koster while they were golfing.”

“I was afraid to go to the police as I knew from Hyder’s
expressed attitude and from what Koster had done to the waitress
and manager at Cabo Wabo, that John Koster and Guy Hyder would
protect Ben Roethlisberger and the company rather than
supporting a police investigation,” the woman said in the
deposition.

Brito said in his lawsuit that he did not recognize
Roethlisberger on the night of the incident. A U.S. citizen who
was born in Mexico, he claimed each of the guests who were
drinking at Roethlisberger’s table “mocked, made fun of and
mimicked” him and his accent during the encounter.

When the woman at the quarterback’s table refused to produce an
ID, Brito said he called for security but was told it would be
awhile before they could respond. Roethlisberger eventually
handed Brito the ID of the woman, who turned out to be 27, the
lawsuit said.

The suit said Roethlisberger later asked Brito if he knew
Koster. Brito acknowledged he did and had been to Koster’s
office, where he observed “a large volume of Pittsburgh Steeler
items.”

“Roethlisberger then said that he was a good friend of Koster
and that he would be speaking to Koster about” the restaurant
worker, the lawsuit said.

Brito said on July 12, Cabo Wabo’s manager told him he had been
suspended, but that by the end of the day he had been informed
“he was terminated because of the incident … with the
Roethlisberger group.”

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