NEW: Plaintiffs' attorney vows to appeal the decision
The suit was brought by two former ball boys who accused Boeheim of slander
Boeheim accused the men of fabricating allegations against a former Syracuse coach
A judge rules the comments "were likely to be an opinion ... rather than objective fact"
A New York State Supreme Court justice dismissed Friday a defamation lawsuit against Syracuse University and its longtime head basketball coach, Jim Boeheim.
The suit was filed in December by two former ball boys for the basketball team, who have accused Bernie Fine, a former assistant coach, of repeated sexual abuse when they were children.
Boeheim initially supported Fine, a longtime friend and colleague, accusing Mike Lang and his stepbrother, Bobby Davis, of fabricating their accusations of Fine’s alleged misconduct. The coach later apologized for his comments.
Justice Brian DeJoseph of the Onondaga County Supreme Court ruled Friday that the initial statements made to media outlets by Boeheim “were likely to be an opinion – a biased, passionate, and defensive point of view of a basketball coach – rather than objective fact. Thus, plaintiff’s defamation claim against Boeheim fails as a matter of law.”
Kevin Quinn, Syracuse’s senior vice president for public affairs, said the university is “gratified” by the decision.
Gloria Allred, an attorney for Lang and Davis, vowed to appeal.
“It is difficult enough for victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward. This decision sends the message that you can attack the alleged victim and call him a liar with impunity. It makes it even harder for victims to come forward,” she said in a statement.
Fine was fired from Syracuse in November after the allegations surfaced. He has not been charged with a crime and has maintained his innocence.
CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to this report.