A judge has tossed a libel lawsuit against ESPN in its reporting on former Syrcause assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. It was brought forth by his wife, Laurie. The judge found that ESPN was not malicious in its reporting on Fine who was accused of sexually molesting two ball boys and that his wife had a relationship with one of them.
Because the judge ruled that Laurie Fine was a public figure, her defense team had to prove whether ESPN showed malice in reporting on Bernie Fine. And the judge felt that because Laurie was a radio personality, she had access to the media and also held a public position with her views on at-risk youth.
The judge also dismissed defamation claims against ESPN along with one of its reporters and a producer.
Laurie Fine is married to Bernie who was fired from Syracuse after allegations surfaced that he molested two ball boys just as the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case at Penn State was being investigated. Fine was never charged and has denied the claims.
Judge David Peebles said there wasn’t evidence that ESPN published stories it knew were false and he went further by citing evidence of sexual conduct by Laurie with one of the ball boys despite her denials.
ESPN issued a statement saying “We feel vindicated by the court’s decision.”
The ruling was handed down just as Syracuse was starting its run into the Final Four this past weekend.