Syracuse coach cleared in defamation suit by former ball boys

Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:14pm EDT
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By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York appeals court has thrown out a defamation lawsuit against Syracuse University and the head coach of its men's basketball team, Jim Boeheim, brought by two former ball boys who accused an assistant coach of molesting them during the 1980s and 1990s.

In the lawsuit, Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Mike Lang accused Boeheim of defamation for publicly calling them liars who were only out for money after they came forward in November 2011 with allegations they were sexually abused as juveniles by former assistant Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine.

Davis and Lang came forward publicly with their allegations against Fine, 67, just days after a separate molestation scandal enveloped the Penn State football team and Jerry Sandusky, a long-time assistant coach.

At the time, Boeheim, who had coached alongside Fine for 35 years, vigorously defended his colleague, telling national sports network ESPN "there is only one side to this story. He (Davis) is lying."

Boeheim also told the Syracuse Post-Standard "The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He's tried before. And now he's trying again."

Davis and Lang, represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, sued Boeheim and Syracuse University for defamation in December 2011. A court in Onondaga County, New York, dismissed the lawsuit in May 2012, saying Boeheim's statements had been based in opinion and were demonstrating his support for Fine, a long-time friend.

The men appealed, and on October 4, a five-justice panel of the Appellate Division of New York Supreme Court upheld the dismissal, saying "the court properly determined that defendant's statements constitute opinion, not fact."

Mariann Wang, an attorney for Davis and Lang, told Reuters in an email on Thursday they planned an appeal to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals.   Continued...