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Bennett's Accuser Arrested

The woman who accused linebacker Cornelius Bennett of sexual assault was among 37 people charged as part of a $1 million crack cocaine ring.

The arrest could affect any judgment the woman may receive from a pending $8 million lawsuit against Bennett, who served a 36-day jail term after pleading guilty to the assault in a hotel room last year, The Buffalo News reported.

Police confirmed the woman, a 27-year-old former hairdresser, was among those indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday as part of a drug ring allegedly run by Darwin "Kelly" McNeill.

"This was one of the most well-established narcotics organizations in this community," U.S. Attorney Denise O'Donnell said.

Other suspects charged in the case include a former state corrections officer and two men who run car businesses in Buffalo. The drug ring has been under investigation for more than two years.

The woman who is suing Bennett faces 16 felony drug counts. She is charged with two counts of conspiracy to distribute more than 10 pounds of cocaine, and 14 counts of using a telephone to arrange drug transactions.

Although police said Bennett had a relationship with the woman while she was allegedly taking part in drug dealing, they said the investigation never turned up any evidence that Bennett, formerly with the Buffalo Bills and now with the Atlanta Falcons, was selling, buying or using drugs.

Bennett's lawyer, James Shaw, said the indictment would affect the lawsuit against Bennett.

"It certainly hurts her credibility, in my opinion," Shaw said. "She claims in her lawsuit that the (May 1997) incident ... left her totally traumatized, unable to work, unable to function. And yet, according to the police, she was well enough to go out and deal drugs."

Although the woman was publicly charged in the drug case, her name was withheld because she is a victim of a sex attack.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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