Laurie Fine to sue ESPN

Updated: May 16, 2012, 11:35 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Laurie Fine, the wife of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, announced Wednesday in Geneva, N.Y., her intention to file a lawsuit in federal court against ESPN and two of its employees, saying she was libeled during the network's reporting of child sex abuse allegations against her husband.

"Today, through my attorneys, I have taken the first steps toward restoring my good name," she said. "The lawsuit I file in federal court says it all. I have never engaged in and condoned despicable conduct falsely reported by ESPN."

Bernie Fine has been accused by two former ball boys -- Bobby Davis and Mike Lang -- of molesting them during a period of more than 10 years, allegations first reported by ESPN's "Outside The Lines" in November 2011.

Syracuse police and federal authorities have been investigating the allegations, but no charges have been filed. Bernie Fine, who was fired Nov. 27 by Syracuse, has denied the allegations.

The lawsuit alleges ESPN falsely portrayed Laurie Fine as having knowledge of abuse of Davis by her husband, and that ESPN doctored a recording of a conversation between Davis and Laurie Fine.

In a statement, an ESPN spokesman said: "The suit is without merit and we stand by our reporting."

Laurie Fine's lawyer, Lawrence Fisher of Pittsburgh, repeatedly declined to answer specific questions and said he was discussing the complaint with ESPN. He has not yet filed the complaint.

"I'm here today as a wife and a mother who has had to endure the trauma of being smeared in the public as a monster," Laurie Fine said, reading quickly from a statement. "My life has been destroyed."

Federal investigators opened an investigation into Bernie Fine following the allegations of a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, who has since said he lied. The local prosecutor has called Davis and Lang credible but said the alleged crimes occurred too long ago to pursue.

Laurie Fine, with her two daughters at her side, said her husband called to wish her luck Wednesday. She would not address whether they are still together.

"Bernie does support this lawsuit, and he's behind me 100 percent," Laurie Fine said.

She said the attention has forced her to live in seclusion for the past six months and give up charity work she enjoyed.

"They should apologize and retract these horrible lies reported about me," she said.

Fine said the network was motivated by the unfolding child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State University involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

"Although these defendants have known me to be a decent and honorable woman, they have maliciously attacked me in order to attack my husband and to boost television ratings in the wake of the Penn State scandal," she said.

The accusations from Davis and Lang roiled the Syracuse team's season and brought criticism to Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim. Boeheim initially called Davis a liar out to capitalize on the Penn State scandal, but soon softened his stance.

Fisher said the media coverage has made it "impossible" for Laurie Fine to go out in public in her hometown, so they held the news conference in Geneva, a Finger Lakes resort town 45 miles west of Syracuse. The family has also put their suburban Syracuse home on the market.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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