Coach Boeheim, Syracuse University lawyers call defamation suit headline fodder
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Two men suing Syracuse University and head basketball coach Jim Boeheim for defamation connected to the sexual abuse investigation of fired assistant Bernie Fine are only out to generate salacious headlines with tawdry court filings, lawyers for the university and the coach said Wednesday.
In the case's latest legal volley, attorneys for Syracuse University and Boeheim argue there's no need to provide the names and addresses of players on the team in the 1990s, among other information, requested by Bobby Davis and Michael Lang through their high-profile lawyer, Gloria Allred.
Davis and Lang have claimed that longtime Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine molested them when they were minors. In an affidavit submitted last week, Davis claimed Fine's wife, Laurie, had sex with several SU players in the 1990s and that Bernie Fine knew about it. Allred has asked the university for a list of all players with their addresses and phone numbers from 1992-1997, among other information requested in the early phase of the defamation lawsuit.
Boeheim's and the school's lawyers say whether Laurie Fine had sex with players is irrelevant since the claim by Davis and Lang only relates to Boeheim's defense of Bernie Fine after the accusations became public in November.
They call an application to force them to turn over the information "nothing more than a transparent effort to generate headlines through the gratuitous publication of irrelevant sexually explicit allegations and should be denied."
When news of the sex abuse claims broke in November, Boeheim staunchly defended his friend and said Lang was lying to make money. The Hall of Fame coach later backed off, saying he based his defense on loyalty and two previous claims of abuse against Fine that authorities could not substantiate.
Boeheim apologized after a third accuser came forward at the end of November and a years-old audiotape surfaced of a phone conversation between Davis and Laurie Fine that some have interpreted as Fine acknowledging Davis was abused by her husband.
The 66-year-old Fine was fired Nov. 27. He has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.
The affidavit filed by Davis last week repeatedly made the point that Davis believes Boeheim knew or should have known what his players were up to, including any contact with Laurie Fine.
"We believe that the information we are seeking is relevant," Allred said Wednesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "It will be up to the judge to decide this issue."
The suit was filed in New York City, a venue opposed by the university and Boeheim, who want it moved to the Syracuse area. Among other things, lawyers for the university said Allred is just using the Laurie Fine allegations as a "fishing expedition" in hopes of finding a Syracuse player who lives in New York City, supporting her case to keep the lawsuit there instead of moving it to Syracuse.
Allred believes her clients can't get a fair shake in a town that reveres its basketball program and hosts the university which employs so many.
Davis, now 40, and Lang claim they were repeatedly forcibly touched by Fine in the 1980s.
Davis tried to get Syracuse police to investigate Bernie Fine in 2002 but was told the statute of limitations had expired. The same was true of any charges brought by Lang.
The U.S. attorney's office is investigating the claims of a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, who says Fine abused him in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002.