Laurie Fine To File Libel Suit Against ESPN

That "major announcement" that Laurie Fine promised for us later this morning, at a castle for some reason? It's exactly what you thought. Fine is bringing a libel lawsuit against ESPN, reporter Mark Schwarz, and producer Arty Berko for their reporting of child sexual abuse allegations against former Syracuse coach Bernie Fine.

The lawsuit is embedded below, and we encourage you to read the whole thing because it lays out a (one-sided) chronology of ESPN's decade of pursuing this story with a completeness we haven't seen before. It accuses ESPN of publication without sufficient corroborating evidence for ball boy Bobby Davis's claims, but more than that it argues actual malice:

By 2011, Schwarz had lost his journalistic objectivity in Davis' story, in part, by maintaining personal communication with Davis for almost a decade.

These personal communications caused Schwarz and Berko to push Davis' story, despite having serious doubts as to its truth, because they had spitefully developed an irrational ill will toward the Fines since Davis first approached Defendants in 2003.

The lawsuit paints a picture of Bobby Davis as a troubled kid taken in by the Fines, who got angry when they eventually cut him off financially. He "regularly tricked the Fines into giving him money," and concocted claims of sexual abuse to get back at them. At the time his claims were found lacking by the Syracuse Post-Standard, ESPN, and a law firm hired by Syracuse University, but, the lawsuit claims, ESPN circled back in November after the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal broke. By then, according to the suit, Davis had convinced Mike Lang to back up his claims—even though Lang had repeatedly denied abuse over the years. Those two sources, plus "an admittedly doctored, substantially inaudible, and entirely speculative tape" of a phone call between Laurie Fine and Davis, were all ESPN had to go with.

Schwarz, on the other hand, is portrayed as a man obsessed with getting a story on par with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, citing his own quote about he would have rather done this story than "100 NBA championship events or 17 World Series."

Fine's attorney expects to file suit in federal court in Syracuse by the end of the week. The first question will become whether Laurie Fine is a public figure. If so, Fine will have to prove that ESPN entertained doubts as to the truth of their story.

Laurie Fine to sue ESPN for libel, says the network "spitefully destroyed" her reputation [Syracuse Post-Standard]