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Fine Fiasco: what defamation suits could really mean in the Boeheim, Fine case

Lawrence Fisher, the attorney for Laurie Fine, listens to questions from reporters on Wednesday, May 15.

Lawrence Fisher, the attorney for Laurie Fine, listens to questions from reporters on Wednesday, May 15. Photo by Amanda Seef.

— A definitive line between fact and opinion can’t be made, Baron said, which means it’s up to the court and how they see the case.

“It’s really how the court concludes reasonable listeners, reasonable readers, would see the statements,” she said. “Name-calling, heated discourse — really reasonable listeners would not understand that to be statements of fact. They would understand that this individual is really articulating their opinion, and I think that’s what the court was getting at in the prior decision. There’s nothing more definitive than that.”

Rochester-turned-Syracuse broadcaster Bob Lonsberry was used as an example in Boeheim’s dismissed case. Radio listeners heard Lonsberry call a man acquitted of homicide a “cold-blooded murderer.” That case was thrown out, citing the difference between fact and opinion and was used in Boeheim’s case.

“People are likely to say things in the heat of the moment that those hearing them, or reading them, will discount because they understand they’re not really statement of fact,” Baron said.

The appeal has been filed in Boeheim’s case.

“Reprehensible” journalism and your reputation

Fine and her attorneys are calling it “reprehensible” journalism.

She says the actions of Mark Schwarz and Artie Burko were done with malice and strayed from the norms of journalism. The 44-page complaint provided to reporters says Schwarz “obsessed” over the Bernie Fine case, resulting in their breaking the case in November, on the edge of the Penn State scandal with Jerry Sandusky.

“ESPN, Schwarz and Burko knowingly and maliciously published the treacherous lies of Bobby Davis,” Fine said in a brief statement to reporters. “Through the steps I am now taking, I will try to establish both stability I have lost in my own life and journalist credibility that ESPN has so easily abandoned during the indefensible coverage of Bobby's transparently false story.”

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