SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The defamation lawsuit filed by two former ball boys against Syracuse University and head basketball coach Jim Boeheim will be heard in Syracuse, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Bobby Davis and Michael Lang filed their suit in New York City, claiming Boeheim slandered them by saying they were out for money after their allegations of abuse by former assistant coach Bernie Fine surfaced in November. They fought a motion by the school and Boeheim to hear the case in Syracuse, where they don't believe they'll get a fair hearing because of Boeheim's high standing in the community.
But Supreme Court Justice Brian DeJoseph said the two men did not provide sufficient proof that Syracuse jurors would be biased. He said while there may be local residents unqualified to serve on a jury for this case, there are about 350,000 people in the county to choose from.
"The plaintiffs' arguments are well-crafted and are certainly worthy of review from this court, but they still equate to nothing more than mere beliefs, suspicions and a feeling of possible bias," DeJoseph, a graduate of Syracuse University and its law school, wrote in his ruling. "This is insufficient to retain venue in New York County."
Davis and his stepbrother Lang claim Fine repeatedly forcibly touched them in the 1980s. Fine, who denies wrongdoing and hasn't been charged, has since been fired. The lawsuit claims Boeheim "knew or should have known" about the alleged conduct of his assistant.
The pair's high-profile lawyer, Gloria Allred, said the judge clearly had considered the arguments that were made.
"We respect his decision and we will move forward with our case," Allred said in an email.
Boeheim vehemently supported his longtime assistant when the accusations broke and called Davis a liar and opportunist looking to cash in on the publicity surrounding the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Boeheim later apologized amid criticism from victims' rights advocates. He said he based his initial comments on a 2005 university investigation that failed to corroborate Davis' claims.
Fine has denied wrongdoing and hasn't been charged.
The claims by the 40-year-old Davis and 45-year-old Lang happened too long ago be investigated. But the U.S. Attorney's office is investigating the claims of a third man, 23-year-old Zachary Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine.
The ruling comes less than two weeks after a different judge in Manhattan dealt a setback to Davis and Lang by ruling that claims about Fine's wife had no bearing in the lawsuit. Lawyers for Davis and Lang had claimed that Laurie Fine's alleged affairs pointed to an atmosphere of "dysfunctional" sexual relationships surrounding the Fines and that Boeheim knew or should have known about.