Trials & Litigation

Wife of Fired Sycacuse University Coach Sues ESPN For Libel

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The wife of fired Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine has sued ESPN for libel.

Laurie Fine’s suit alleges the network ruined her life by broadcasting reports that she knew her husband abused boys and that she had sex with one of them, the Boston Globe reports.

ESPN in November broke the story of two former Syracuse ball boys—Bobby Davis and his stepbrother, Michael Lange—who claimed they were molested by Bernie Fine decades ago. In her suit, Laurie Fine accuses ESPN of reporting the abuse allegations against her husband in a bid to boost ratings as the Penn State sex abuse scandal was unfolding. She notes that the network had done extensive reporting years earlier into the allegations but had decided not to broadcast anything because it couldn’t find any evidence to back up the claims.

Key to Laurie Fine’s lawsuit is a 47-minute audiotape of a 2002 phone conversation between Fine and David in which she says she “knew everything” that went on. Laurie Fine’s Pittsburgh lawyer, Lawrence Fisher, said the recording was doctored, selectively edited, reported out of context and did not definitively contain Laurie Fine’s voice.

In a news conference to announce the suit last week, Laurie Fine said she has had to “endure the trauma of being smeared” as a monster in public. “My life has been destroyed.”

Josh Krulewitz, a spokesman for ESPN, said the suit is without merit and the network stands by its reporting.

Bernie Fine, who has denied wrongdoing, has not been charged.

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