By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
The list of people who have said they were victims of child sexual abuse of now retired Philadelphia Daily News sports writer Bill Conlin is growing.
According to a report that appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News via Philly.com, a sixth victim said she was abused by the recent inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame. All the alleged victims of Conlin said the abuse occurred in the 1970s when they were between the ages of seven and 12.
According to the account in the Daily News, Linda Stella, now 50, said Conlin pulled her to his lap and began flexing his leg muscles and when she pulled away, she saw a wet spot in his crouch. The graphic details of Conlin’s alleged sexual assault from all six of the victims ranged from groping to fondling of the victims’ genitals—is similar to what Stella was describing.
Last year, four of the victims had their testimony videotaped by Gloucester County prosecutors, but because the alleged assaults occurred before 1996, charges against Conlin could not be filed because of the alleged molestation wasn’t reported within the parameters of New Jersey’s child abuse laws. Under the law, assaults must be reported within five years of the incident. The law was changed in 1996.
Three of the victims, including Conlin’s niece Kelley Blanchet, an Atlantic City prosecutor, have retained an attorney. But because of statute of limitation laws, the victims don’t have any remedy in the criminal courts for their complaints against Conlin.
“These very brave women have come forward knowing that the statute of limitations effectively bars their claims against Mr. Conlin.,” said the victims’ attorney Slade McLaughlin on his website. “They have made their stories public solely to set the record to straight, to encourage others to step forward, and to ensure that others will not be victimized in the future. The only gain they hope to realize is that of increased public awareness and the protection of others.”
Meanwhile, Conlin, who maintains his innocence, has retained an attorney, George Bochetto, who said Conlin hired him to clear his name and restore his reputation. Phone calls to Bochetto’s office were not returned.
Finding the legal remedy for the accusers and the accused, criminal or civil, in this case will be a task easier said than done because of the New Jersey law. Neither side will have a forum to try case other than through the court of public opinion.
“This happened so long ago that I can’t see any real recourse as far as financial and the state’s attorneys have made the decision not to prosecute because of the statute of limitations,” said Kevin Mincey, a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney.
“As far as Conlin, he’s really left no recourse. He could sue them for defamation of character. But then he’s putting himself on trial. He’s giving (the victims) a forum that they didn’t have and he’s not a sympathetic figure.”
“He’s not going to gain anything by fighting. They can’t prosecute him, they can’t sue him. He’s got a lot of money from being a sports writer. “If he’s smart, he’ll just go away.”