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Judge denies ESPN request to dismiss suit

ALBANY (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request by ESPN to dismiss a libel suit filed by the wife of former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.

Laurie Fine accused the sports cable television network of libel and slander in its coverage of child-molesting allegations against her husband. The lawsuit claims the network’s coverage was grossly irresponsible.

ESPN’s lawyers argued the reporting by Mark Schwarz and producer Arthur Berko shouldn’t be the subject of a libel suit because the information was based on official proceedings, including police department documents.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn indicated he could not determine if ESPN’s reporting was “fair and true,” allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

“Laurie Fine is exceedingly pleased with the decision,” Fine’s lawyer, Pittsburgh-based Lawrence Fisher, said Tuesday. “ESPN sought to dismiss the case and claimed its reporting was fair and true. What the court held was they were wrong.”

ESPN spokesman David Scott said the network stands by its reporting.