Syracuse basketball sex scandal moves to defamation litigation

In the recent upheaval in the college athletics world, there have been a few accusations of sexual abuse against top coaches. Although many people are supporting the alleged victims of sexual abuse, there have also been those who are quick to deny that any abuse ever occurred. In some cases, university staff, coaches and family members of the accused are even so brash as to publicly call the young men stepping forward liars. After two men accused a Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of sexual molesting them for nearly 20 years, Jim Boeheim, the head coach, has made it quite clear that he thinks the men are just out for money.

The two men, however, are fighting back. After taking the courageous first step of sharing their stories, the step-brothers are now suing Boeheim for defamation. According to the New York attorney representing the two men, Boeheim's eventual recanting of his statements had done little to rectify the damage he's caused. She claims that the coach is one of Syracuse's "most respected individuals" and it is hard to forget that he told national and international media outlets on numerous occasions that the men were lying and trying to reap a financial award from these allegations.

Unfortunately for the two men, they are unable to file a civil lawsuit against Fine, Boeheim or the University for the molestation. In New York, a victim of child sexual abuse can only sue his or her abuser within five years of turning 18 years old. Although many have been working with the New York state legislature to change the laws, this story is a reminder to anyone who may have suffered sexual abuse at the hand of a sports figure to speak up in order to protect his or her rights.

One of the men has said that Fine started abusing him at the age of 11 and that he was molested for nearly 20 years. His step-brother told the media that he was in the fifth or sixth grade when Fine started to molest him. A third man has also alleged Fine sexually molested him while he was a child.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "2 men plan to sue Syracuse over coach sex abuse," Dec. 14, 2011


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