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Veteran sports columnist faces child sex abuse accusations

From Laura Dolan and Sarah Hoye, CNN
updated 11:27 PM EST, Wed December 21, 2011
Philadelphia sports columnist Bill Conlin, 77, denies the allegations of child sex abuse.
Philadelphia sports columnist Bill Conlin, 77, denies the allegations of child sex abuse.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Longtime Philadelphia sports columnist Bill Conlin has been accused of sexual abuse
  • Conlin will not face prosecution because the statute of limitations has already expired
  • Conlin, 77, could not be immediately reached for comment
  • Last month, Colin weighed in on the Sandusky scandal in a Daily News column

Philadelphia (CNN) -- Longtime Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Bill Conlin will not face prosecution over child sex abuse allegations -- even if there were grounds for charges -- because the statute of limitations concerning the alleged crimes has expired, according to prosecutors.

The claims were published in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday after an investigation was initiated by authorities, according to a statement from Bernard Weisenfeld, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey.

The article says three women and a man allege they were molested by Conlin in the 1970s when they were between the ages of 7 and 12. One of the alleged victims is Conlin's niece, said Slade McLaughlin, an attorney who represents three of the accusers.

A spokesman for the Daily News said the newspaper had no knowledge of the allegations prior to The Inquirer's story.

Conlin has denied the claims, speaking through his attorney. He retired from the Daily News on Tuesday, the newspaper said.

"Mr. Conlin is obviously floored by these allegations, which supposedly happened 40 years ago. He's engaged me to do everything possible to bring the facts forward to vindicate his name," said attorney George Bochetto.

Prosecutors say an exhaustive investigation had been launched into the allegations. But, Weisenfeld said, it was later determined that even if there were legal grounds to pursue a criminal prosecution, prosecutors are barred from doing so because the alleged crimes occurred too long ago.

A 1996 law actually eliminates statutes of limitations on sexual assault cases in New Jersey, but the law is not considered retroactive for claims that date back as far as the 1970s.

Still, McLaughlin said, his clients want to speak out.

"They made the decision that they were going to tell their story," the attorney told CNN. "This isn't a he-said, she-said story. It's a he-said, they-said. Their only motives are getting closure and public service."

McLaughlin also noted, after speaking with his clients, that the accusations made in The Inquirer's story were accurate.

Conlin, 77, who gained national recognition from appearances on ESPN, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The veteran sportswriter worked for the Daily News for nearly half a century. The newspaper published an editorial Wednesday written by its managing editor in an effort to address the scandal.

"I have been a journalist for more than a quarter century, and I have never had a professional experience that was sadder — or more shocking — than reading the allegations leveled against Bill Conlin yesterday," wrote Larry Platt.

"We've taken the unusual step of also running (the Inquirer's story), in its entirety, on the following page, because I felt you deserved to see the allegations in full context," he added.

Still, Platt reminded readers that Conlin has not been charged with a crime.

The Inquirer and the Daily News are owned by a parent company, Philadelphia Media Network.

This week's allegations come in the wake of a series of recent child sex abuse scandals, including the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who faces more than 50 counts of child sex abuse spread over several years.

Conlin, who covered sports throughout Pennsylvania for the newspaper, weighed in on the Penn State scandal last month in a column published by the Daily News titled "Tough Guys Are Talking About Sandusky."

Conlin expressed doubt about those who said they would have intervened on behalf of a child, had they witnessed the boy's alleged molestation at the hands of Sandusky in a university locker room shower.

"Everybody says he will do the right thing, get involved, put his own ass on the line before or after the fact," Conlin wrote in a column published on November 11. "But the moment itself has a cruel way of suspending our fearless intentions."

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