ESPN files motion to dismiss part of Laurie Fine defamation lawsuit

Laurie Fine

ESPN filed to dismiss part of Laurie Fineâ??s defamation lawsuit against the company and argues that its reports were accurate. The section ESPN wants swiftly dismissed is called "Libelous Statement 5". That's the section the attempts to hold ESPN and its reporters responsible for reporting on allegations Bobby Davis made in legal filings that Laurie Fine had sexual relationships with Syracuse University basketball players.

The filing in federal court states: "The libel claim based on Statement 5 must be dismissed as a matter of law. Under well settled New York law, a publisher cannot be liable when it publishes a â??fair and trueâ?? report of a judicial proceeding, even if the publication repeats allegations made about a participant to that proceeding that are alleged to be false. Ms. Fine does not, and cannot, allege that ESPNâ??s reporting on the Boeheim lawsuit was inaccurate."

In other words ESPN makes the point: if it accurately reports court proceedings it can't be held responsible if the allegations made in court ultimately are proven false.

There are five other libelous statements outlined in the Laurie Fine lawsuit. Attorneys for ESPN have chosen to address them at a later time. They have requested a hearing on Statement 5 with an Albany judge in September.

The wife of fired Syracuse University associate basketball coach Bernie Fine filed a lawsuit against ESPN in Syracuse Federal Court back in May.

She said the TV network destroyed her reputation when it aired news stories about her husband late last year. Fine said that she was forced into seclusion, had to sell her house, and has been the target of widespread ridicule as a result of the ESPN reports.

At a press conference in May, Fine accused ESPN, Mark Schwarz and Artie Berko of maliciously attacking her "in order to attack my husband and to boost television ratings in the wake of the Penn State scandal."

Two former ball boys, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang have accused Bernie Fine of molesting them decades ago. Fine has denied the allegations and has not been charged. ESPN had said the lawsuit was without merit.

The motion is scheduled to be heard in Albany on September 7.