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Laurie Fine to sue ESPN, accuses network of libel

May 16, 2012, 9:18 AM EDT

laurieFine AP

Laurie Fine, the wife of former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine, will sue ESPN for libel in response to the network’s reporting of her involvement in the alleged incidents that led to child molestation accusations being levied against her husband, the Post-Standard is reporting.

In a 44-page document provided to the Post-Standard, the lawsuit accuses reporter Mark Schwarz and producer Andy Berko of acting negligently in their reporting of the allegations against Bernie Fine and casting Laurie Fine in a false light by taking her words out of context.

This news comes just prior to Fine’s scheduled 11 a.m. press conference Wednesday, where an announcement of the lawsuit is to be made. She will reportedly file the lawsuit in federal court in the coming days.

The lawsuit goes on to say that ESPN “spitefully destroyed Laurie Fine’s reputation in an attempt to capitalize financially in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal,” including publishing false and defamatory statements, among them that she created “a space in which children could be sexually molested in secret.”

Bernie Fine has not been charged and has denied any and all accusations against him.

Much of Fine’s case against ESPN will hinge on whether she is determined to be a public or private person, as the standards for libel are much higher for a public figure.

As the Post-Standard explains, as a private person, Fine would need to prove that ESPN departed grossly from journalistic standards by publishing the piece, and did so with “gross irresponsibility.”

Were it to be determined that she is a public figure, she would need to prove that ESPN published the report with malice and reckless disregard for the truth.

A link to the text of Fine’s lawsuit can be found here.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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