Arguments have been heard, but it could be at least another two weeks before we learn the judge's decision in the defamation lawsuit against Syracuse University and basketball coach Jim Boeheim.
The coach and the school are being sued for defamation by Bobby Davis and Mike Lang. Boeheim called the two of them liars after they accused longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine of sexual abuse in November.
Davis, Lang, and their celebrity attorney Gloria Allred all appeared in State Supreme Court in Syracuse for a hearing Friday afternoon. Lawyers for Boeheim and SU are trying to get the
defamation lawsuit dismissed
. Allred and her team are
trying to keep the suit going
. Click here to hear why Allred decided to come to Syracuse on Friday.
Lawyers for the defendants started the hearing. They argued Boeheim's comments need to be taken in full and in proper context. They say Boeheim was stating his opinions, and those opinions should be protected. Lawyers say Boeheim was emotional, partly because the accusations against Fine created comparisons between SU and Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case.
SU's lawyers also brought up Boeheim's reputation as a blunt man who speaks his mind. Judge Brian DeJoseph asked the legal team "does (Boeheim) get a free pass for having a reputation as a blunt speaker?" Lawyers said no.
When it was the plaintiff's turn, attorney Mariann Wang started by saying "I take issue with nearly everything just presented." She says Boeheim made statements of false facts, not opinions. She implied Boeheim knew more about prior investigations into the allegations. She says he spoke with expertise as if he knew what was in the university's investigation into the allegations that were made several years before. Wang says Boeheim tried to shut down the story with his comments. She asked the judge for an opportunity to further prove the depths of Boeheim's acts.
This is the second time this defamation case has been in court. The first hearing was a change of venue hearing in New York City, where the case was originally filed. In comparison to that hearing, Judge DeJoseph went deeper into the issues, and Wang appeared better prepared and stronger. Wang told Judge DeJoseph, "Mr. Boeheim accused our clients of a crime." Judge DeJoseph replied, calling that "a bit of a stretch."
Judge DeJoseph told the court he has a lot of work to do before making a decision. He says despite the volumes of case law cited by lawyers, the nature of defamation cases needs to be taken on their own facts. He says it could be at least two weeks before he reaches his decision.
Bobby Davis and Michael Lang joined their attorneys on the way out of court and spoke briefly. They both felt it was important to be present in court today because of the importance of the case. Gloria Allred said she hopes the judge allows the case to move forward because she looks forward to deeper discovery into how Syracuse University investigated the claims of abuse by Davis. When asked about whether she expects to return to Syracuse after the judge makes his decision she responded,"I'd love to come back to Syracuse."
As for the sexual abuse allegations, the federal investigation is still ongoing. Bernie Fine has denied any wrongdoing, and no charges have been filed. Fine was fired from SU, but recently got
a new job
as a consultant for a basketball team in Israel.