Earlier this week, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, two individuals accusing Bernie Fine of various inappropriate sexual acts, filed suit against Syracuse University and head men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim. The plaintiffs claim that Boeheim’s comments, made in his official capacity as an employee of Syracuse University, to the press defamed both plaintiffs by impugning their integrity, making knowingly false statements, and accusing them of committing a crime by stating they lied when reporting the alleged acts to police. According to plaintiffs’ petition, the following statements made by Boeheim were defamatory:
1. “This is alleged to have occurred . . . what? Twenty years ago? Am I in the right neighborhood? . .. So we are supposed to do what? Stop the presses 26 years later? For a false allegation? For what I absolutely believe is a false allegation? I know [Davis is] lying about me seeing him in his hotel room. That’s a lie. If he’s going to tell one lie, I’m sure there’s a few more of them.”
2. “The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. . . . That’s what this is about. Money.”
3. “It is a bunch of a thousand lies that [Davis] has told. . . . He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did. . . there is only one side to this story. He is lying.”
4. “You don’t think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?”
5. The timing of Lang’s decision to speak out about his abuse seemed “a little suspicious.”
It is important to note that plaintiffs claim that Boeheim accused them of committing a criminal act (i.e., falsifying a police report), which is a protected class allegation and, therefore, does not require proving special damages. The most difficult aspect of most defamation cases is providing monetary damages that are compensable. If plaintiffs are able to prove that such alleged statements do meet the requirements of showing an allegation of a protected class, then damages are not quite as difficult to show. Of course, punitive damages are also a possibility.
Plaintiffs hired famed Hollywood lawyer Gloria Allred to represent their interests. She is most well known for her involvement in numerous scandals that garnered media attention including matters relating to Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson, and Scott Peterson.