When someone says they were sexually abused as a child, immediately calling them a liar is one of the worst things that you can do, but disturbingly, there's been a lot of that in the recent university child abuse scandals. When Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Mike Lang first accused Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them as children, head coach Jim Boeheim's first response was to say Davis was telling "a bunch of a thousand lies" and that the brothers, "saw what happened at Penn State and they are using ESPN to get money." Boeheim later apologized, but the brothers say the damage has already been done. Now they're suing Boeheim and the school for defamation.
Gloria Allred has signed on as the brothers' attorney, making this a bona fide shitstorm. According to the Associated Press, she explained that the university is being sued as well as Boeheim because he gave statements to the press on behalf of Syracuse. Davis said during a press conference:
"It really hurt me to learn that Coach Jim Boeheim accused me of lying ... It really made me angry because I felt that he was speaking for the university when he made his accusations against me."
After a recording of a phone coversation between Davis and Fine's wife Laurie, in which she says she knew "everything" that was going on, Boeheim said he regretted saying anything that "might have been insensitive to victims of abuse." Two days later he apologized, but then made the mistake of explaining that he was proud of himself for trying to defend a longtime friend.
Finally on December 2, Boeheim came up with a shorter and more appropriate apology, saying:
"I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made ... I shouldn't have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that, and I regret any harm that I caused."
At the press conference, Allred said Boeheim's apology came too late because, "One of Syracuse's most respected individuals had already told the world repeatedly that Bobby Davis and Mike Lang were nothing but liars and out for money and nothing else."
The lawsuit also mentions Davis' accusation that in 1987 Boehim saw Davis lying on a bed in Fine's hotel room in just his shorts and did nothing. Boeheim insists that this never happened, saying in an interview last month, "I have never walked into Bernie's room on the road. This isn't true. This just isn't true." However, the suit alleges that the coach, "made each of these statements knowing they were false or recklessly disregarding their truth or falsity."
Last week, a New York district attorney said that while Davis and Lang seem credible, none of the allegations against Fine can be prosecuted because the statue of limitations has passed. The D.A. also said that he has proof that the third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, is lying about his claim that Fine molested him. Tomaselli has admitted to sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy and said today that he expects to spend two years in jail.
While it seems the high-profile abuse cases at Penn State and Syracuse have encouraged more people to report that they were molested, Lang said part of the reason he's filing the suit is becaue he's worried about what other people will take from how the alleged victims were treated. "It may stop others from coming forward out of fear of being attacked by a highly respected coach or other university officials," he said.
2 Men Sue Syracuse, Boeheim For Defamation [AP]
Fine Allegations | Tomaselli To Likely Face Prison Time For Sexual Abuse Of Minor [Daily Orange]
Alleged Sex Abuse Victims Sue Boeheim, Syracuse [Reuters]