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Philly sports columnist accused of child sex abuse
December 21, 2011 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Bill Conlin, a Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist, retired abruptly yesterday after word leaked the the Philadelphia Inquirer was set to run a story in the next day's paper detailing allegations against him of child sexual abuse dating from the 1970s. (Trigger warning; graphic and very sad accounts of familial abuse, shame, and silence.)

Primarily writing about the Phillies, Conlin's byline has appeared over Philadelphia and national sports stories for nearly 50 years, and he was honored this past summer by the Baseball Writers Association of America with its highest award, the J. G. Taylor Spink Award. (The BBWAA is officially unfazed by the allegations).

No fan of the internet, Conlin once expressed regret that bloggers had not been caught up in the Holocaust
(ctrl+F "hitler"), and was an ardent supporter of Joe Paterno in his recent troubles at Penn State.

Ironically it may have been the Penn State scandal that indirectly led to the public allegations against Conlin, as at least one of the victims cited Penn State as motivation in coming forward, however late. Conlin faces no legal jeopardy; the statue of limitations on the crimes alleged has long expired. That may soon change, at least in Pennsylvania.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders (69 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.
posted by Renoroc at 7:25 AM on December 21, 2011


If ever there was an argument for extending the statute of limitation on such crimes, this is it. What a degenerate POS.
posted by VicNebulous at 7:26 AM on December 21, 2011


One of the good things to come out of the Penn St scandal besides Sandusky being stopped (hopefully) is that more people will be coming forward like this and changes to statue of limitations law, as the OP says. Hopefully, this will empower victims to come forward against all abusers, not just famous ones.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:27 AM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.

If the allegations encourage other victims to come forward against current abusers, they do a hell of a lot more good than putting Conlin in jail would.
posted by escabeche at 7:28 AM on December 21, 2011 [35 favorites]


"What good"? How about the victims getting some hint of public recognition of their experience? It's not all about punishing the perpetrator, although it in some cases should be.
posted by ChrisR at 7:28 AM on December 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact.

Wait, what? How about the feelings of the victims who get to unload this burden they have carried for so many years? How about everyone who knows Bill Conlin not letting their children anywhere near him so he can't victimize again? How about giving others the courage to come forward? How about, if nothing else, disgracing Conlin or anyone else who has done this?
posted by holdkris99 at 7:29 AM on December 21, 2011 [18 favorites]


Your "ardent supporter of Joe Paterno" link contains nothing that could be called "ardent support of Joe Paterno." It does compare Paterno to Muammar Qaddafi, though.
posted by escabeche at 7:29 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.

Really? Assuming the allegations are true, you can't see how, even if there isn't any chance of prosecution, this could be a positive and healthy thing for the alleged victims?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:30 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.

It allows other victims to realize that they're not alone and won't necessarily be attacked for telling their stories. It provides them with more confidence to step forward.

It also sends a message to other abusers that their acts won't stay hidden. That they can't shame their victims into silence forever.
posted by zarq at 7:31 AM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact.

A victim not having to live with a painful secret any more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Among the very best things about the exposure of the Penn State abominations and the apparently unending series of aftershocks, are the sleepless nights child molesters all over the country are having thinking they might be next.
posted by jamjam at 7:33 AM on December 21, 2011 [31 favorites]


With this situation and the Ryan Braun situation the BBWAA has had it's hands full as of late. It's tough to say to strip someone of their awards they earned based on allegations or even convictions (see OJ and the Heisman) but I propose that on their website a link is placed next to Conlin's name (the dreaded asterisk maybe) that points to the daily news article.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have written about this before on the blue and let me say that one of my deepest regrets in life is not outing the man who molested me and my sister and my cousins and no telling who else before he died. So there is definitely benefits even if there will be no criminal prosecution or punishment.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:44 AM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact.

It gives people with 7- year-old allegations a lot more credibility when charges are laid.
posted by mhoye at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


stupidsexyFlanders: " (The BBWAA is officially unfazed by the allegations). "

Andy Martino of the Daily News is a BBWAA member. He wrote a column about the statement this morning:
The statement seems tone deaf, and insensitive to the alleged victims. Because it was issued by an organization of which I have been a member since 2009, I feel compelled to publicly distance myself from it, and make clear that it does not represent me.
And Big League Stew has a blog post up about the statement:
"O'Connell seems to be saying that because Conlin hasn't been accused of molesting children (including relatives) while also writing about baseball, it's irrelevant to the Spink Award and (presumably) whether the honor can be revoked. He wasn't accused of doing anything untoward in a press box, or a clubhouse, or on the field, so who cares? Conlin could have been accused of treason, murder, war crimes — you name it — and it would not matter because none of it fits the description of a baseball writer's job. John Wayne Gacy might have raped and murdered all of those boys, but don't let that muddle his accomplishments as a clown painter.

O'Connell presumably wants to believe Conlin is innocent, and that the BBWAA didn't reward a monster. Perhaps a "no comment" might lead some to infer that the BBWAA thinks Conlin is guilty. But "no comment" would have been more prudent than saying, basically, that being accused of child molestation is irrelevant. O'Connell is kidding himself; if this news had broken before the Spink vote happened in 2011, it wouldn't have had "no bearing" on how the electorate voted."

posted by zarq at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


How horrifying. My mother died without ever being able to confront the person who molested her.

Meanwhile I have a close friend who still knows where his abuser lives. He's told me that on several occasions while he still worked for the local police, he thought of just busting in and killing him, or at least scaring him. I don't think he's ever confronted him to this day.

I hope these people find some peace, one way or another. This stuff is just horrible, and I'm glad we live in a world where this isn't swept under the rug anymore.
posted by snapped at 7:52 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.

"We need to move forward."
posted by DU at 7:52 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironically it may have been the Penn State scandal that indirectly led to the public allegations against Conlin, as at least one of the victims cited Penn State as motivation in coming forward, however late. Conlin faces no legal jeopardy; the statue of limitations on the crimes alleged has long expired.
Are statute of limitations retroactive? That is, if you commit a crime, and the statute of limitations expires, and then it's revealed that you did it, and then the statute of limitations expires can you then be convicted?

Because if that's the case, then it would seem that this guy is in some jeopardy.
posted by delmoi at 8:02 AM on December 21, 2011


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.
posted by Renoroc

Hopefully, the protection of other children.
posted by jb at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something worth noting: BBWAA members elect baseball players to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That's pretty much what they're most known for. They certainly judge players for their ethics and morality and count lapses against them, since Mark McGuire and Pete Rose have been denied entrance into the Hall of Fame.

By all means, don't judge the guy prematurely. But their defense of Conlin is pretty sleazy, considering.
posted by zarq at 8:05 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Barbara Healey remembers it well.

"Kevin just came into the room crying. It was unusual to see a boy crying," she said. "He told me Mr. Conlin molested him."

She told her son not to tell his father - "his father had a terrible temper," she said - and forbade him to return to the Conlin home.

But she continued to allow her daughter Karen to spend time with Conlin's younger son, Peter. "I thought he was just interested in boys," she said of Conlin.

A few years later, Barbara Healey said, she was shocked to learn that her daughter had been molested as well.
Not to pick on Mrs. Healey, but this is why the statute of limitations should not be dependent on the parent's willingness to press charges. The victims are the children but the system places all hope of justice in the hands of these adults who are not the victims.

I mean, there are so many excuses here:

They decided not to tell the other two husbands, fearing that in their anger they might harm Conlin...

The man said he never considered calling police, in part out of loyalty to Conlin's wife. "We didn't want to hurt her," he said.


And as to what good does it do to reveal it now? No more secrets, no more shaming the victims, no more making these kids pay the price so adults won't be made uncomfortable. It's no surprise that some of the victims are more upset with the fact that all of this is coming out now and ruining the "peace and balance" they worked so hard to build. This wouldn't be an issue if secrecy and private shame weren't so intimately linked with child rape.
posted by Danila at 8:10 AM on December 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.
What possible benefit is there in continuing to keep them secret? Even if he doesn't go to jail, he still got fired. His life is still ruined. So why not do it? If the goal is to harm pedophiles as much as legally possible (up to a reasonable jail sentence, I don't think they should be executed here) then clearly revealing the abuse is a net benefit, even if he doesn't go to jail.

Plus, people won't let him around their kids, which probably a good thing.
Among the very best things about the exposure of the Penn State abominations and the apparently unending series of aftershocks, are the sleepless nights child molesters all over the country are having thinking they might be next.
Yeah, plus that.

Another interesting thing, think about someone like Roman Polanski. I don't know what the statute of limitation is in CA, but it's possible that he would have gotten a much harsher jail sentence of the victim came forward today then had she come forward at the time (The prosecutors weren't pushing for a long sentence, but the particular judge was thought to might go for a longer one to make a point, which is why he fled).

Plus, we know he had a thing for young girls, maybe there were others?
posted by delmoi at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Zarq, Rose has been denied HOF election because he's on MLB's inelligible list for his gambling on games in which he had a duty to perform, and thus not listed on the ballots. Several BBWAA members have given him "write-in votes" anyway.
posted by stevis23 at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2011


"I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail."

This is the creepiest possible response to this story. Please explain why you believe child sexual abuse should be kept secret and go unpunished if the abuser managed to get away with it for decades.
posted by a_girl_irl at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Philadelphia Daily News actually ran the Inquirer piece today in its entirety, which is pretty much unheard of. Because they felt their readers deserved to know about the allegations.

Philadelphia Daily News editor Larry Platt has a column: "How do we report about our own?"
I first found out the Inquirer was working on a piece about Bill Monday. I read a draft of the piece this afternoon. It bears repeating all the necessary caveats, of course: at present, these are allegations. Bill has not been proven guilty or even charged with anything.

That said, I have to say the story made my stomach turn. I can't shake the disgust and rage I felt after reading the allegations in the piece, nor can I stop thinking about the victims.

I have known Bill Conlin since 1990, and before that, I knew him as a legendary voice on the page. I simply do not know how to reconcile what I've read with the man I know. I spoke to him today. He offered to retire and I immediately accepted. I knew I'd never be comfortable running his byline again.

For a long time today, we struggled with how to best acknowledge this story without knowing the facts or reporting on it ourselves. It is a strange and sad time in the newsroom, and we will do our best to cover this as if it were any other high-profile figure in Philadelphia. But of course it is not just another high-profile figure in Philadelphia.

...

When I spoke with my stunned staff today, I found myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words. But then the reporters and editors among us started speaking up. They wanted to report this story. It was, for me, an oddly inspiring moment.

They reminded me: This is what we do. We hold people accountable, and we've done that with everyone from mayors to Jerry Sandusky. Now we just may have to do it with one of our own.

posted by zarq at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


stevis23: " Several BBWAA members have given him "write-in votes" anyway."

Ah. Thanks for clarifying!
posted by zarq at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2011


Delmoi, see Stogner v. California.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2011


I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail.

Well, it's information someone considering letting Bill watch their children next weekend, might want to know about.
posted by nomisxid at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I fail to see what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact. Even if true, he's not even going to jail."

And I fail to see what good silence does.
posted by compartment at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2011


Andy Martino of the Daily News is a BBWAA member. He wrote a column about the statement this morning

Andy Martino also worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer (owned by the same organization that owns the Philadelphia Daily News) as the Phillies beat reporter. He and Conlin would have been colleagues a couple of years ago. I'm not accusing Andy Martino of bias or bitterness, the opposite given how often groups close ranks to protect their own.
posted by gladly at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2011


He offered to retire and I immediately accepted.

How about "You're fired effective immediately, security will be here in a moment to escort you out and your personal belongings will be shipped to you" instead?
posted by mrbill at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2011


That would open them up to a law suit most likely, mrbill. He has not been convicted of anything nor charged with anything.
posted by spicynuts at 8:51 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


PA's an "at-will" state, if he didn't have a contract with the paper:
"Since 1891, Pennsylvania has subscribed to the theory of employment at will. Thus, as the court noted in Stumpp v. Stroudsburg Municipal Authority 540 Pa. 391, 396 (1995), "as a general rule, employees are at-will, absent a contract, and may be terminated at any time, for any reason or for no reason."
I would assume that the "offer to retire" is an admission of guilt.
posted by mrbill at 8:55 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, see Stogner v. California.
Interesting. It was a 5/4 decision in favor of not extending the limit retroactively, with the liberal judges voting against extension, while Kennedy, Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas voting for extension. I suppose had that gone through it would be possible to prosecute anyone at any time so long as the legislature was willing to extend the statute of limitations retroactively.
How about "You're fired effective immediately, security will be here in a moment to escort you out and your personal belongings will be shipped to you" instead?
Just for allegations? Don't you think it would be better to investigate to see if the allegations are credible first?
posted by delmoi at 8:55 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


PA's an "at-will" state, if he didn't have a contract with the paper:
Aren't most newspapers unionized? Plus, it's likely that someone who had been with the paper that long probably would have a contract.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on December 21, 2011


Don't you think it would be better to investigate to see if the allegations are credible first?

The offer to retire immediately pretty much covers that, in my eyes. If the allegations were false, wouldn't he fight them rather than take the easy way out regarding his employer?
posted by mrbill at 8:58 AM on December 21, 2011


Nah, Daily News had it right. Get rid of him, but report on him, make sure the facts come out. There's been no determination of guilt yet, but they can't stand by him. Sounds spot-on, to me.
posted by angrycat at 8:59 AM on December 21, 2011


And apparently there will never be a (legal) determination of guilt. If a civil suit is brought there may be damages awarded, but that's it. (IANAL)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:14 AM on December 21, 2011


The offer to retire immediately pretty much covers that, in my eyes. If the allegations were false, wouldn't he fight them rather than take the easy way out regarding his employer?
No? I mean, he says he's going to 'fight' the allegations, but if he was innocent close to retirement, why not just do it and save everyone the trouble?

This kind of thing, trying to interpret random behavior after being accused as proof of guilt, instead of the actual evidence can lead to some pretty stupid conclusions.

I remember seeing on CNN, a guy who had been in jail on charges of murdering a little kid was freed on DNA evidence. This was on Larry King, and they dug up some crazed prosecutor to come on who started saying stuff like "Why did he joke about it when he was arrested if he wasn't guilty!?" Well, we know he wasn't guilty due to the DNA evidence. But she was still trying to smear him -- who knows why. But he had behaved in a way people thought was 'strange' after he was arrested. Same with Amanda Knox, The West Memphis 3, etc.

Innocent people routinely confess to crimes they didn't do if they're put under enough pressure. You can say "if you didn't do it, why confess?" but, it doesn't matter -- the fact they confessed doesn't even mean they necessarily did it.
posted by delmoi at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Are statute of limitations retroactive?

In the US, not since 2003. That is to say, if a crime's statute of limitations has passed, a state can no longer retroactively bring it back into force, as some have attempted to do. The Stogner decision specifically involved a sexual abuse case.
posted by dhartung at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2011


The offer to retire immediately pretty much covers that, in my eyes. If the allegations were false, wouldn't he fight them rather than take the easy way out regarding his employer?

If I were a 77 year old employed in pretty much any capacity I would offer to retire immediately at the first sign of trouble. Especially since he won't be facing prosecution, there's really no way or reason for him to deal with this. If I were him (and innocent) I would just retire, go away, and hope everyone forgot about me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:08 AM on December 21, 2011


I don’t think victims should have to keep secrets if they don’t want to, but the idea of prosecuting someone for a 30 year old crime based on the testimony of someone who was a kid at the time is pretty scary. That’s why they have limitations, not because it isn’t important anymore.
posted by bongo_x at 10:13 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


bongo_x: "but the idea of prosecuting someone for a 30 year old crime based on the testimony of someone who was a kid at the time is pretty scary."

Why?
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on December 21, 2011


Memories fade, documents and records disappear; if the person is innocent, establishing alibis and finding exonerating evidence becomes very hard if not impossible, and it pretty much inevitably comes down to the word of the accuser against the word of the accused, and this thread is a pretty good indication of how that is likely to go.
posted by eugenen at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


eugenen: "Memories fade, documents and records disappear; if the person is innocent, establishing alibis and finding exonerating evidence becomes very hard if not impossible, and it pretty much inevitably comes down to the word of the accuser against the word of the accused, and this thread is a pretty good indication of how that is likely to go."

By this metric, no one who has ever been raped, molested or even fondled against their will should ever be allowed to come forward with allegations, because they might permanently sully the name of an innocent.

Sorry, but I think that's ridiculous. It tells abusers and rapists that if their victims remain shamed or intimidated into silence long enough, they'll get away with it.
posted by zarq at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


By this metric, no one who has ever been raped, molested or even fondled against their will should ever be allowed to come forward with allegations, because they might permanently sully the name of an innocent.

Sorry, but I think that's ridiculous. It tells abusers and rapists that if their victims remain shamed or intimidated into silence long enough, they'll get away with it.


Well, yes. I guess. That's what a statute of limitations does. We balance the imperative to bring wrongdoers to justice against the right to a fair trial -- which diminishes with the passage of time -- and draw the line somewhere. I think that's reasonable.
posted by eugenen at 10:46 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


The statute of limitations does many things, including rank the severity of the crime under consideration. There's certainly a legitimate cultural shift about how to think about the severity of different crimes. In a case like this, you essentially have people with almost no power (children) who have to come to terms with confronting someone with a lot of power, not just by virtue of being an adult, but also a famous adult. Reflexively upholding the statute of limitations as a good in a case like this doesn't seem particularly reflective, or, if reflective, response to the needs of victims.
posted by OmieWise at 10:53 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


eugenen: " Well, yes. I guess. That's what a statute of limitations does. We balance the imperative to bring wrongdoers to justice against the right to a fair trial -- which diminishes with the passage of time -- and draw the line somewhere. I think that's reasonable."

Child victims of sexual abuse often bury their memories of those traumas, because they simply don't know how to process them. They often cannot turn to an adult for help, or are rebuffed when they do. It is common in molestation cases for non-abusive parents and adults to react in disbelief or fear, silencing a child and preventing them from speaking out. That reportedly, allegedly, happened to at least one of Conlin's accusers, to Kevin Healy.

Adults who have been sexually assaulted have resources available to them that children may not. A child's world is defined by the people who are in charge of it. They would need to be given the resources they need which an adult could actively seek out.

So when a child is taught that what has been done to them, (often by someone they looked up to and trusted as an authority figure,) is shameful and should never be spoken about, it stays with them. Or, they may simply be called a liar, by a parent who refuses to believe the unthinkable has happened.

It literally took me decades to be able to talk about what happened to me as a child. I still never, ever speak about it publicly except in vague terms. Consider this: the people who hurt me are dead, yet what I learned as a small child still has enough power over me that I find it impossible to discuss what happened in detail. Imagine how others must feel about coming forward, and the bravery required to do so.

Conlin deserves the right to a fair trial. So do his accusers. Neither of them are going to get that. The only thing left is for them to be allowed to have their say, and for him to be allowed to respond to them.

It's better than living in silence.
posted by zarq at 11:11 AM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Conlin deserves the right to a fair trial. So do his accusers. Neither of them are going to get that. The only thing left is for them to be allowed to have their say, and for him to be allowed to respond to them.

It's better than living in silence.


With all due respect I think you're moving the goal posts a little. All I'm saying is that a law that prevents someone from being charged, convicted and sent to jail for a crime committed 30 years ago -- no matter its severity -- is sensible and seems to me to strike the right balance.

The actual statute of limitations in New Jersey appears to be 5 years after the child turns 18. One can certainly argue that this is too short. This case is way beyond it in any event.

I would never suggest that victims not be permitted to speak out publicly about crimes committed against them. Of course they can.
posted by eugenen at 11:23 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying that the allegations should have been kept a secret, molestation of anybody is a horrible crime. It's so horrible that the perpetrator ought to be caught and tried as soon as possible since it does more good to stop things sooner than later.

We're in the USA, not some developing country and this guy was just a sports writer, not a celebrity or pontiff. Are you seriously telling me that in the past three decades, none of these victims were able to confide in an authority figure who could do something about it?

Also, think of all the victims he probably has been molesting since them. Victims who don't come forward in time share some of the responsibility for victims after them.
posted by Renoroc at 11:57 AM on December 21, 2011


eugenen: " With all due respect I think you're moving the goal posts a little.

OK. It is possible I misread the intent of your original statement. But both my responses to you have been consistent. I'm not moving goal posts between them.

All I'm saying is that a law that prevents someone from being charged, convicted and sent to jail for a crime committed 30 years ago -- no matter its severity -- is sensible and seems to me to strike the right balance.

I admit that I may be unfairly biased, but I honestly do not believe statute of limitations are necessarily reasonable in child molestation cases, for the reasons I stated above. It is impossible to predict how deeply this particular type of trauma will be buried, what will trigger it to rise to the surface, and what might propel the victim to speak out.

The actual statute of limitations in New Jersey appears to be 5 years after the child turns 18. One can certainly argue that this is too short. This case is way beyond it in any event.

There is no longer a statute of limitations in New Jersey on sex crimes, since 1996. However, the law is not retroactive. New Jersey law used to require victims to notify law enforcement within five years of an incident. So yes, given the amount of time that has passed, this case cannot be prosecuted. His accusers acknowledged that in the main article.

In any event, even when they do meet statute of limitations requirements, such "cold" cases don't often turn into convictions with jail time because the evidence presented is typically circumstantial and a jury must be convinced of guilt "beyond a shadow of a doubt." Circumstantial evidence is enough to convict in certain cases, but one must first convince a jury and that's very difficult without medical records, witnesses or anything concrete.

I would never suggest that victims not be permitted to speak out publicly about crimes committed against them. Of course they can."

Okay. Thank you for clarifying that.
posted by zarq at 12:27 PM on December 21, 2011


In the US, not since 2003.

Actually, since 1788.

a jury must be convinced of guilt 'beyond a shadow of a doubt.'

"Beyond the shadow of a doubt is sometimes used interchangeably, although mistakenly, with beyond a reasonable doubt."
posted by kirkaracha at 12:40 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Renoroc: "Are you seriously telling me that in the past three decades, none of these victims were able to confide in an authority figure who could do something about it?

I'm not really sure I know how to convey this properly, but being able to find someone to talk to and feeling safe and comfortable enough to confide something so private and person to them are very different things.

The main article in this post notes that four people have decided to come forward at this time. However, they also allege that at least two other people, relatives of Mr. Conlin, were abused and are unwilling to do step forward.
"I honestly do not want to be involved with whatever you guys are going to do," one female relative wrote to Blanchet in a Facebook message last year. "I don't even think about my past anymore. It is behind me. My family and I are done with it.

She said Blanchet's renewed focus on the assaults was "interfering with the peace and life I built for me and my family. . . . I am hurting now, so no more updates."

One of the girls from Whitman School Road also declined to participate, in part, she said, to protect her elderly parents.

"I feel that they have done their part in honoring the wishes of the rest of the families involved by keeping the secret away from the other spouses for whatever the reasons may have been," she wrote in an e-mail to Blanchet, Healey, and her other childhood friend. "The decisions made many years ago were the consensus of the families involved and took into consideration the effects on all, including the Conlin family.

"In today's world, things might have been handled differently, but that's hindsight, and we are willing to live with it," the woman wrote.
There have been volumes and volumes written about child victims of sexual abuse, and the reasons why it might take them so long to process trauma, and/or feel the need to step forward. There are a lot of factors involved, and very few of them are ever based in logic.

In a case like this where so much time has passed and there is no chance of prosecution, victims might also believe there is no point in going public.

Also, think of all the victims he probably has been molesting since them. Victims who don't come forward in time share some of the responsibility for victims after them."

Yes. But I can't blame them, either.
posted by zarq at 12:43 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


kirkaracha: " "Beyond the shadow of a doubt is sometimes used interchangeably, although mistakenly, with beyond a reasonable doubt.""

Ah. Thanks.
posted by zarq at 12:49 PM on December 21, 2011


We're in the USA, not some developing country and this guy was just a sports writer, not a celebrity or pontiff. Are you seriously telling me that in the past three decades, none of these victims were able to confide in an authority figure who could do something about it?

Also, think of all the victims he probably has been molesting since them. Victims who don't come forward in time share some of the responsibility for victims after them.


Flagged as offensive.
posted by gerryblog at 12:51 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Renoroc: "Also, think of all the victims he probably has been molesting since them. Victims who don't come forward in time share some of the responsibility for victims after them."

I really struggle with this idea. Philosophically, in a vacuum, divorcing all humanity from the equation ... then yes, each decision a survivor makes from when an assault starts right through the way it impacts them through the rest of their life has ramifications. Good, bad, ugly, unfortunate. In a vacuum, you can always make a reasoned, right decision.

The problem is that assault doesn't happen in a vacuum. It happens to a person with emotions and fears and pain and all the complexity of humanity. It happens to a person who is trying to survive this, both in terms of immediate physicality and in terms of long-term soul/spirit/mental health survival. And when that person is a child, with a limited life experience, limited autonomy, limited understanding of what is going on, and faced with something that really doesn't map at all to the landscape of the world as they understand it... it's an awfully big responsibility to put on a child's shoulders. Frequently, the survivor who - for whatever cocktail of situations and reasons - does not see their attacker punished will internally take that burden, that blame onto his or her own shoulders, of not preventing future instances, but I'm not sure it belongs there among children especially.

I find it really difficult to condemn people who are trying to survive something so traumatic from doing what they need to to survive. Sexual assault impacts a person beyond the physical attack, and it isn't always consistent. Who the person is, what their life history has been, how they've interacted with the world, what the assaulter did and said and who he is in relationship to his victim -- these things all impact how the person will handle the assault and its ramifications. It is only recently that there has been a concentrated effort to divorce the shame from the victim.

For so long, our culture has looked for reasons to explain why bad things happen and why people do bad things, and why they might not be so horrible as it initially seems. When you marry this with the mismatch of status between adults and children (This manifests itself in many ways, including: there tends to be a palpable sense among many children that people will always believe an adult over a kid, especially when it's an adult everyone seems to like; when an adult tells you to do something - even not telling anyone - many kids have a tendency to follow in; kids tend to believe things adult tell them like "It is your fault this happened." "I know where you live." "I'll never do this again."), it makes for a situation in which the predator can skate by, like he seems to have done here, for decades.

Fundamentally, however, I believe strongly that if we are toting up responsibility for future victims, the predator owns it all. All of it. The parents who dealt with it extralegally (however weakly) or not at all beyond protecting their own kids have responsibility for not bringing him to justice and for not taking stronger steps to prevent him from assaulting new victims and continuing to assault other ones whose parents didn't know. I suspect many of these survivors are already blaming themselves for not preventing future victims, discounting their own methods and needs for survival, when their priority needed to be surviving, especially at a time when there was a lot more victim-blaming and notoriety that could be corrosive.
posted by julen at 1:15 PM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Thank you, julen.
posted by zarq at 1:18 PM on December 21, 2011


Actually, since 1788.

Point taken, but you can play that game with any Supreme Court decision that sets a law aside. The law was in place in California for nine years.
I was unable, searching briefly, to find any other explicitly retroactive state law changes, nor any other cases brought to conviction under this law.

Victims who don't come forward in time share some of the responsibility for victims after them.

That is such insufferable bullshit.
posted by dhartung at 1:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's Bill Conlin's chummy back-and-forth with A.J. Daulerio, Deadspin/Gawker editor and admitted Conlin fan, before the story broke.
posted by Andrew Galarneau at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2011


Not to pick on Mrs. Healey,

Fine, I'll pick on her. She's a total idiot. You know that one of your kids is molested by someone, and you still let your other kid hang out in the home around this man? It's too late now, but she should have had her kids removed. That's such a basic parental failure.
posted by prodigalsun at 2:47 PM on December 21, 2011


More from Deadspin:

A Guide to the Molestation Allegations Against Bill Conlin

The BBWAA Tries Again With A Bill Conlin Statement, This Time Acknowledging That Child Molestation Claims Are Bad
posted by zarq at 3:19 PM on December 21, 2011


Victims who don't come forward in time share some of the responsibility for victims after them.

What.The.Fuck.

That was my initial response, but then I thought about it some and (despite two really insensitive comments and one kind of strange one in the Sandusky thread, I am going to give Renoroc the benefit of the doubt here) maybe there is something to what he is saying but he's just not saying it right. It's not that victims that don't speak up assume any responsibility for future victims, but they do assume a the feeling of a lot of guilt when they find out they weren't the only ones. It's a slippery slope, and one that I have been on. I think what Renoroc does not understand is the power that this assholes have over their victims, either expressed power or implied power, there is not much difference in this type of situation. In the end all of the blame and responsibility lies with the perpetrator mainly and with people who's job it is to protect children that know about abuse and do nothing to stop it. I'm trying to think of a comparable perpetrator/victim scenario to compare with this to make my point more clearly, but there just is none.

Not sure this came out right. Not defending Renoroc but not condemning either. He just doesn't know what he's talking about.
posted by holdkris99 at 5:15 PM on December 21, 2011


I don’t think victims should have to keep secrets if they don’t want to, but the idea of prosecuting someone for a 30 year old crime based on the testimony of someone who was a kid at the time is pretty scary. That’s why they have limitations, not because it isn’t important anymore.
It's more then that, though. According to the report these kids told people at the time, and those people did nothing. So it's multiple kids, and their parents were quoted explaining why they didn't report it to the police or anyone else at the time. So it would have to be a lot of people in a conspiracy together, who had been close friends with him decades ago (close enough to him to cover up child molesting, if it happened)

So while I agree with you, it should be on a case-by-case basis to see how credible the accusations are.
Conlin deserves the right to a fair trial. So do his accusers. Neither of them are going to get that. The only thing left is for them to be allowed to have their say, and for him to be allowed to respond to them.
Hmm, is it really true that the victim of a crime 'deserves' to have the person they receive get a 'fair prosecution'? Prosecutors use discretion all the time to decide what cases not to pursue.

But like I said, in this specific case, it seems unlikely that a bunch of children would come forward, that a bunch of parents would say they knew but did nothing, etc.
We're in the USA, not some developing country and this guy was just a sports writer, not a celebrity or pontiff. Are you seriously telling me that in the past three decades, none of these victims were able to confide in an authority figure who could do something about it?
"Were able too" != "Wanted too". Even if they could have said something, they might have simply not wanted to. For some people, there could be a huge stigma associated with it. Read null terminated's suicide note for an example of how people could feel. The feelings caused by being molested end up driving to kill himself, but he never felt comfortable telling anyone because he didn't want anyone to know.

The other reason why you might want to do something, like I said, you want other people to be warned that the guy is a kiddy diddler, so they can keep their kids away from him.
Here's Bill Conlin's chummy back-and-forth with A.J. Daulerio, Deadspin/Gawker editor and admitted Conlin fan, before the story broke.
--
One of the messages he sent:
So what do you recommend? Suicide? A pre-empt? What? And who lets it out, and why? Washing their hands of my blood and letting somebody else open my veins?

Sent from my iPad
Most inappropriate "Sent from my iPad" ever.
posted by delmoi at 5:58 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you seriously telling me that in the past three decades, none of these victims were able to confide in an authority figure who could do something about it

This sounds like you didn't read the article, in which the angst and the motives seem quite clear, or the comment from the Mefite in this very thread who wishes she'd done that. There's also the fact that some of them did, and the adult in question didn't report it. As for why they didn't do anything in the intervening years, the unfortunate fact is that sex crimes are different. If there were never any association between shame and even consensual sex, if society as a whole didn't have a virgin/whore complex, if there were never any shame or scorn associated with being on the receiving end of penetrative sex, if male-male sex in the decade when that crime took place was shame-free, maybe sexual assault could be the same as any other kind of assault, if you can overlook the general unpleasant deeply un-childish grossness of being used against your will as somebody's masturbatory toy and the fact that even a "simple" violent assault by a full-grown adult against a child is going to disturb and frighten that child in ways that an adult victim is going to be immune to, then "why couldn't they get it together to tell somebody outside their family and not worry about being believed or reliving the experience or having everybody find out about it" would be a pretty reasonable question. Of course, these victims told their parents, and their parents didn't turn them in. That would have to be a little demoralizing for a kid who'd already been molested.

The reason the first person made the allegation, as the article explains, answers your original question, "what good comes out of these allegations 30+ years after the fact": she found out that Conlin has grandkids. Dude's not paralyzed, you know?
posted by Adventurer at 10:42 PM on December 21, 2011


I'm terribly sorry, the Metafilter user in question is a guy. Dumb of me to not check that. I think I just remembered "sister" and made the same assumption Barbara Healey made. (Why would you let any kid hang out with a child molester even if you knew for a fact that he wasn't going to molest that particular child? What qualities could possibly make up for that? That's the most puzzling part of the story to me.)
posted by Adventurer at 10:49 PM on December 21, 2011


holdkris99: " I think what Renoroc does not understand is the power that this assholes have over their victims, either expressed power or implied power, there is not much difference in this type of situation. In the end all of the blame and responsibility lies with the perpetrator mainly and with people who's job it is to protect children that know about abuse and do nothing to stop it. I'm trying to think of a comparable perpetrator/victim scenario to compare with this to make my point more clearly, but there just is none."

I think you said it well. As did julen.

Speaking only for myself here, but for many years I have wished that I had spoken up at the time and do worry that by not doing so, I may have failed to prevent someone else from being abused. I know intellectually that (as you say,) a perpetrator of abuse is culpable, not the child victim. And that there are dozens of very good, sensible and logical justifications that can be raised to defend my inaction, but the bottom line is that speaking out would have been the right thing to do and I didn't. Despite knowing all those justifications I still wonder and feel guilt and shame over it and blame myself. I doubt that will ever go away. There's nothing logical about it. But it is what it is.

Adventurer: " (Why would you let any kid hang out with a child molester even if you knew for a fact that he wasn't going to molest that particular child? What qualities could possibly make up for that? That's the most puzzling part of the story to me.)"

I think their boys were just friends. The parents probably didn't think Conlin would try it again after being confronted. Also, people do not understand what motivates a pedophile. They think that pedophelia is purely a sexual urge and research indicates that it is not. It is also an empowerment issue. Child molesters create a power dynamic wherein they have full control over their victims. The life of a child is who is in charge, who is protecting them and who is giving them what they need and ask for. Children are used to sacrificing their free will to adults in authority. They are trained to do so from a young age until trusting adults becomes instinctive.

If your daughter is molested and you believe pedophilia is only a sexual urge, it is possible to draw the conclusion that your son will be safe because the pedophile is only attracted to young girls. Now combine that with a parent's natural reticence to discuss sex acts and the dangers of sexual predators with a young child. You don't warn your kid. You think your kid is probably safe.

It's insane, but I can see it happening. We don't want to believe in monsters.
posted by zarq at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2011


It's insane, but I can see it happening. We don't want to believe in monsters.

zarq--I'm always impressed by your willingness to grant people the benefit of the doubt (seriously). But I disagree with you here, I think letting their daughter play in the same house is the mark of something worse than a well-meant oversight. In my experience, even at that time, most parents erred on the side of too much caution. Knowing that abuse happened in a house would have put the whole house off limits for everyone I know, whether or not parents thought it likely to happen again.
posted by OmieWise at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2011


Some follow-up links on this story:

A Sportswriter’s Hall of Fame Tribute Is Out of Place to Some

Anatomy of a disgrace

The Morning Call: Why do sex crimes have a statute of limitations?

Poynter: 5 lessons from how Philly.com handled comments on Conlin sex abuse stories

This is American Sports' Catholic Church Moment

And wonderfully... The Morning Call: Calls to abuse hotlines have risen since news spread of the Penn State and Syracuse scandals. And Big child sex abuse cases embolden victims.
posted by zarq at 4:04 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


And omiewise (sorry for not responding before this. I got caught up in stuff and just plain forgot) after thinking about it, yes, I agree with you.
posted by zarq at 4:05 PM on January 20, 2012


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