Street Justice – My initial thought on this Bill Conlin madness.

Firstly, here’s the link to the Philadelphia Inquirer story. A veteran sports journalist has been accused of committing horrifying acts of child molestation during the 1970’s. He himself is now well into his 70’s.

I have no feeling about Bill Conlin the man. I’ve never met him and only know him from his columns and tv/radio appearances.

What you see in the article is that the Sandusky/Penn State media frenzy has caused the alleged Conlin victims to want to come forward and tell their story. They say they can no longer keep silent.

And there is no question that the story they tell is nauseating and describes a man who is every bit the monster that Sandusky is made out to be. The key similarity is the sickening detail of descriptions. We all know a child molester is evil, but we are rarely taken into a moment by moment narration of the attacks. That narration was absent, as I recall, from stories about abuses committed by Catholic priests.

The most important distinction between the Sandusky accusations and those being made public about Conlin is that the latter cannot be prosecuted. The events described are too remote in time. Thus, even if every sickening story in today’s article is true, Conlin does not face any legal problems as a result.

And yet, he has retained attorney George Bochetto to represent him. Perhaps he intends to pursue a defamation claim against his accusers. The only problem with that is he has the burden of proof and can’t prevail on such a claim if what is being said is true. The newspaper, by the way, is immune from any suit because of its journalism privilege. Interestingly, that newspaper is owned by the same parent company that employed Conlin. Until he resigned this morning.

So what’s going on here? The answer, I believe, is punishment, retribution. These accusers believe that this man ruined their lives and now they are going to ruin his. He is a widower in his late 70’s and his life has just been ruined. He may deserve that punishment, I don’t know. But I am struck how this justice drama is so public and completely outside the rule of law. The courts and our system of government, so dear in our hearts, play no role whatsoever.