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Spink Award winner Bill Conlin accused of sexually abusing children

Dec 20, 2011, 6:20 PM EDT

Bill Conlin AP

Four people, three women and a man, accused longtime Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin of molesting them as children in the 1970s, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Nancy Phillips reported Tuesday.

Conlin, who is honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame after receiving the 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink award, retired from his post at the Daily News earlier in the day after news of the upcoming article was leaked.

Phillips’ report tells of children, one of them Conlin’s niece, being touched inappropriately by Conlin. According to the account, Conlin was confronted by his brother-in-law after one such incident, cried and claimed he only touched his niece’s leg. None of the alleged acts were ever reported to police at the time, and the statute of limitations has long since run out, meaning Conlin will not be charged with crimes unless additional accusers with more recent allegations come forward.

Conlin declined comment for the article. His lawyer, George Bochetto, did make a statement: “Mr. Conlin is obviously floored by these accusations, which supposedly happened 40 years ago. He has engaged me to do everything possible to bring the facts forward to vindicate his name.”

Conlin wrote for the Daily News for 47 years. He was on the Phillies beat from 1966-87 and served as a columnist afterwards. He’s also made hundreds of appearances on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters through the years.

  1. natsattack - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Yes, 3 woman and 1 men.

  2. foreverchipper10 - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    Boy, the PSU scandal really opened the floodgates on accusations of this nature. It’s quite disturbing.

    • jwbiii - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:36 PM

      The alleged victims in this case went to the police last year.

      Last year, Blanchet, Kevin Healey, Karen Healey, and another woman from the neighborhood gave prosecutors videotaped testimony about the abuse they said they suffered at Conlin’s hands years ago.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:38 PM

        Correct. My bad… I added an “at the time” to the entry for clarity.

      • jwbiii - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:03 PM

        Matthew, My point is that the victims reported the crimes well before the PSU scandal became public. Its becoming public may have led Kelley Blanchet to contact the Inquirer to bring it out into the open, though.

  3. lyon810 - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    Why has Philly become the hotbed for this sort of thing?

    • bleedgreen - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:35 PM

      Penn State is not in Philadelphia. Its a 4-6 hour drive away. The other accusation was in Syracuse (I believe?). Also, not in Philadelphia, as Syracuse is in upstate NY.

  4. crankyfrankie - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    I just want it not to be true. Hope a rush to judgement can be avoided.

    • paperlions - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:29 PM

      Really? I just want the truth to come out….whatever it is.

  5. okwhitefalcon - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    I remember watching this guy on “The Sports Reporters” and thinking he embodied everything associated with media arrogance – all knowing and bully like.

    For whatever reasons, these allegations don’t surprise – dude’s always seemed creepy.

    Moving forward..

    I wonder if he’ll give up The Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices while under oath or plead the 5th?

  6. brockw82 - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Shouldn’t he lose his Spink award if proven guilty? Everyone makes such a huge deal about steroidsa – well, he should get kicked out.

    • Chris K - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:02 PM

      Given that the statute of limitations has run out, will he ever be proven guilty? The most that they could do is maybe a civil suit to get some damages money? Even then, he’d only be ‘probably guilty’ right?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:07 PM

        Yes, I believe that civil cases require a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than reasonable doubt. Generally though it seems like people who molest children don’t just stop molesting children so there are probably more kids out there, unfortunately. If that is the case, hopefully the statute of limitations wouldn’t be expired.

      • Old Gator - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:09 PM

        But I still think he should be voted into whatever hall of fame sportswriters get voted into. You know, like Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, those guys. What’s really important is what he wrote, right?

      • JBerardi - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:40 PM

        Gator,

        I wouldn’t keep Conlin out of the non-existant writer’s HOF if he’d ever taken amphetamines to meet his deadlines, no. On the other hand, if Barry Bonds had molested children as opposed to hitting baseballs in a morally unsound manner, then no, I probably wouldn’t want him in the HOF.

        But please, continue to equate cheating at sports to molesting children. That’s a winning argument, and classy to boot.

      • Old Gator - Dec 20, 2011 at 11:44 PM

        JB: re-tune your antennae for “irony.” Please don’t pretend you think I can’t distinguish between the degrees of severity of the behaviors in question – you’re not that dim by a long shot. What I’m gunning for is the argument in regard to the HOF that was enunciated and defended a few topics back that the behavior shouldn’t matter, and that the voters should take into consideration merely the bare facts of the player’s performance. By that logic, if Barry Bonds’ steroid abuse shouldn’t matter to the Hall voters, Conlin’s Spink award should only be evaluated or judged in terms of his sportswriting and his alleged child molestation should not be relevant. I think that’s horse shit on both counts.

        But I have to hope you really knew that’s what I was getting at anyway. Otherwise, I’ve misjudged your intelligence pretty severely.

      • Chris K - Dec 23, 2011 at 6:24 AM

        Well, I mean, Ty Cobb did some pretty damn atrocius things to the blind and the non-white, if I recall…

      • Chris K - Dec 23, 2011 at 6:24 AM

        Well, I mean, Ty Cobb did some pretty damn atrocious things to the blind and the non-white, if I recall…

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 21, 2011 at 10:51 AM

      I agree, brock. If character is going to be weighed so heavily now, it should be across the board.

  7. djpostl - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    I keep coming across this recurring theme, “and the statute of limitations has long since run out, meaning will not be charged with crimes unless additional accusers with more recent allegations come forward.”

    Can somebody, ANYBODY explain one thing to me?

    Why the F*** do we have a statute of limitations on molesting children????!!!!

    • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:04 PM

      Well, there is a statute of limitations upon most crimes. In the case of child molestation, I believe it would be extremely difficult to prove allegations that are exceedingly old. That is just my guess though.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:20 PM

        From the updated Deadspin article, they changed the laws to remove the statute of limitations but the laws aren’t retroactive.

      • jwbiii - Dec 20, 2011 at 10:55 PM

        It’s that Constitutional ex post facto clause. It’s in the New Jersey Constitution, too.

    • 78mu - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:19 PM

      We have statute of limitations for the same reason we have SOLs on other crimes. Memories fade or change, witnesses move or die and evidence gets lost or degrades.

      I coached my girlfriend’s softball team 36 years ago when I was in college and coached my kid’s teams in the last 20 years. How would one go about defending themselves when I know I was never alone with any of their teammates but can’t prove it? Evidence usually amounts to numerous charges from multiple victims but always ends with damage to one’s reputation, innocent or not. I remember the charges of child molestation that never happened at day care centers in the 1980s as well as the Duke lacrosse case. When charges go back decades it is even more important to wait for the evidence.

      • djpostl - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:54 PM

        Then why isn’t there one for murder? Because some crimes are so disturbing/sever that they warrant no SoL.

      • 78mu - Dec 20, 2011 at 8:19 PM

        dj

        Are you arguing for no SOLs?

        Murder has no SOL in some states but at least with murder there is evidence in the form of a dead body (usually). The corpse is evidence of a crime and doesn’t depend on the word of a victim.

        When I worked with lawyers and prosecutors, there were times when they knew guilty people got away with things because the charges could not be proven. That’s the system our country was founded on. It’s not perfect but it’s better than any system that involves human beings. SOLs are there for a reason and while they may not apply to murder the standard for conviction is the same.

  8. phillyphreak - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    Truly disturbing and horrible.

    Bill, when I’m king of the world, there will be no statue of limitations…..

    • phillyphreak - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:24 PM

      * statute

  9. largebill - Dec 20, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    “Why the F*** do we have a statute of limitations on molesting children????!!!!”

    Calcaterra is an actual lawyer and can give a much better answer, but the basic answer is we have statutes of limitations primarily to ensure cases are handled in a timely manner. A defendant has a right to a speedy trial for many reasons. Among those reasons is evidence becomes less reliable with time, memories fade or get corrupted by other memories, potential alibi witnesses die or without knowing a case may be in the offing that particular memory is lost. Different offenses have different statutes of limitations. As far as I know, murder is the only offense with such limitation. An argument could be made that the same reasons for such limitations apply equally or more to murder. While the awful nature of crimes against children might lead us to believe those crimes should not have a statute of limitations, the very thing that makes them awful (the age and innocence of the victims) also makes them unreliable witnesses particularly once considerable time has passed. In a case like this, he will get his punishment (or his redemption) in the next world.

  10. normcash - Dec 20, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    The SOL originated in English law hundreds of years ago. It arose because there had been many instances of people falsely charged with crimes that allegedly occurred in the distant past (often
    these charges were poltically motivated). The passage of time made it difficult or impossible to
    defend the charges—dead witnesses, destroyed physical evidence and the like. The same
    justification for SOL exists today, although scientific advances such as DNA analysis weakens the justification in some cases. There is no logical reason why murder should be an exception—merely the emotional argument that some crimes are so bad nobody should “get away” with them.

  11. chasemutley - Dec 20, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    In New Jersey where these crimes allegedly took place there is no longer any SOL on sex crimes. However this was enforced beginning in 1996 but these new allegations that took place in the 70’s cannot be ‘grandfathered’ in.

    These now adults came forward after Mr.Conlins wife recently passed. Since one of the accusers is a relative, she is naturally concerned that if left unattended with his grandchildren this travesty could take place again.

    Interestingly enough, Conlin wrote a very powerful article recently blasting all of the cowards who knew of the Penn State scandal and did nothing about it.

    When I’m King of The World Bill, child molesters will hang for their atrocious crimes.

    • channingtaintum - Dec 21, 2011 at 1:11 AM

      “Interestingly enough, Conlin wrote a very powerful article recently blasting all of the cowards who knew of the Penn State scandal and did nothing about it.”

      And that may be why he finds himself in this postion, the alleged victims saw the article in the paper and were disgusted and decided it was time.

  12. gallaghedj311 - Dec 21, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    So much for innocent until proven guilty…. If all u people want to jump to conclusions and pass judgement, go to law school. U wouldn’t cut someone open if ur not a surgeon, right? Apply the same logic. And I’m not defending Mr Conlin either. But as long as ur not being a part of the solution, ur negativity simply adds to the problem

    • mattjg - Dec 21, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      Of course only lawyers can pass judgment. That’s why Constitution requires conviction by a jury of JD’s. Oh, that’s right. That document trusts ordinary citizens to pass judgment on guilt and innocence. It’s not doing when you’re not a doctor–it’s seeing a leg bent the wrong way at a 90-degree angle and saying, “That’s probably broken.”

  13. mojosmagic - Dec 21, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    The police have in their possession a 10 page letter of apology Conlin wrote to one of his victims after he was caught. Another victim’s father told police Conlin confessed touching the girl after being confronted by him. There was a very strong case against this man but because of our legal system nothing can be done.

  14. drew44 - Dec 21, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Big Jerk Bill Conlin would not vote Bonds because he used roids. Should all his baseball HOF votes be erased because he is a Chester. Sounds about right.

  15. professor59 - Dec 21, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    It’s probably too late to hope it’s not true, but this is the first of these guys that I held in any esteem at all. I didn’t give a crap about Paterno, and I don’t know anything about Syracuse except that I hate Boeheim. But I was a huge Conlin fan, having read his brilliant stuff my whole life. The last fall from grace that bothered me as much was Pete Rose.

  16. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 21, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    See, if Conlin had been accused of using PED’s, the BBWAA would come after him with torches and pitchforks.

    Child molestation accusations, on the other hand? Not a breach of their “character” clause, it seems.

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