Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A lawsuit filed against Syracuse University by two men who claim they were sexually molested by former assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was moved out of New York City to an upstate courthouse.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Brian F. DeJoseph in Syracuse yesterday granted a motion by lawyers for the university and co-defendant Jim Boeheim, the head men’s basketball coach, to have the case heard in Onondoga County, where the school is based and where plaintiff Robert “Bobby” Davis lives.
Davis and his stepbrother Michael Lang, of Oswego County, who both served as ball boys for the Syracuse basketball program, sued the school and Boeheim in in Manhattan on Dec. 13. Fine, who has denied wrongdoing, wasn’t named in the suit and the university has declined to comment on the complaint.
The plaintiffs argued that the case should stay in Manhattan as local media coverage has “tainted the local jury pool,” DeJoseph said in his ruling. “The plaintiffs’ arguments are well-crafted and are certainly worth of review from this court, but they still equate to nothing more than mere beliefs, suspicions and a feeling of possible bias.”
Syracuse fired Fine, who was in his 36th season at the upstate New York university, on Nov. 27 after he was accused of sexually abusing the two former ball boys. Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said on Dec. 8 that Fine won’t face charges related to those allegations because the claims are too old to prosecute.
Davis accused the university and Boeheim of failing to protect him from Fine, whom Davis says began abusing him after making him a ball boy at age 11 in 1983. Fine also abused Lang, who is 5 1/2 years older than Davis, according to the complaint.
The judge, a graduate of Syracuse University, said in his decision that articles from national and local outlets after Fine’s dismissal aren’t completely one-sided and can’t be considered “unduly unfair.”
“Some of the articles support defendants, while others support the plaintiffs,” DeJoseph wrote. “The court has not been called upon to review whether the media coverage has been fair and accurate, but in the context of plaintiffs’ argument, the court does not view the media coverage in central New York as completely ‘negative’ so as to preclude a fair and impartial trial.”
Gloria Allred, an attorney representing Davis and Lang, said she is reviewing the university’s move for a change of venue.
“We filed in New York City because of concerns that the coach would have an unfair advantage in Syracuse where he is a local hero and the university is a local major employer,” she said in an e-mail. “However, we have confidence in our clients’ case no matter where it is ultimately heard.’
The cases are Davis v. Boeheim, 000255/2012, Onondaga County Supreme Court (Syracuse); and Davis v. Boeheim, 113967/2011, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
--Editors: Peter Blumberg, Glenn Holdcraft
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