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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chciago

In 2004, a 19 year old woman accused St Kilda footballers Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna of r*pe. The incident allegedly happened at Montagna's home after the club's family day. No charges were ever laid against the pair once the investigations were completed. In 2010, the Office of Police Integrity reviewed the case after two former policemen revealed that their investigation, even though done by the book, had been compromised. The OPI was concerned that the investigation had been interfered with, and their review revealed that the initial investigations had been flawed. The detective leading the investigation suggested he had dropped the charges in part because of pressure from other officers. He said that he had been approached several times by others outside the police department urging him to make the case go away. It has been reported that a senior officer linked to the case had a part-time job with St Kilda at the time.

The police have now charged Milne on four counts and he will face a "committal" hearing (preliminary hearing) on July 5. Should the prosecution present enough evidence, Milne would then face a jury trial. As a result, Milne has been stood down by St Kilda for the next several weeks. That suspension was originally indefinite but club officials changed the duration after a meeting with the player leadership group. While disappointed that Milne would not be lining up along side Nick Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo for their 250th games, the players understood and accepted the board's decision. Both Milne and Montagna have consistently protested their innocence.

After the Adam Goodes incident during the AFL's Indigenous Round, Milne was interviewed on "The Sunday Footy Show" and said he was often the target of abuse by spectators because of the alleged incident. As a result, he has been one of many players who have supported the AFL's push to stamp out such personalized vilification. St Kilda Coach Scott Watters has said that Milne's career is not over and that he could be back on the field in three to four weeks. In an interview, Watters said he backed the club's decision but also said there was a "duty of care and responsibility" regarding Milne, stating "His return to play is solely based on duty of care ... with consultation with the club psychologist and discussions with Steve, we'll work out the right time to play."

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou also backed the club's decision, saying Milne not playing in Round 14, which has been themed as the "Women's" Round", was appropriate out of respect for all concerned.

Source: afl.com.au, theage.com.au, abc.net.au

Article last changed on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 11:50 PM EDT


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