By Pat Loeb, Jim Osman and Dave Huddleston
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hall of Fame sports columnist Bill Conlin, of the Philadelphia Daily News, retired abruptly Tuesday, after learning that the Philadelphia Inquirer was publishing a story containing allegations that he abused four children, including his niece, in the 1970’s. The story has since been published.
“A sense of shock, a sense of outrage, a sense of sadness for the victims,” is how Daily News editor Larry Platt describes the atmosphere in the newsroom when reporters learned of the charges against Conlin, who’d been one of the paper’s remaining treasures.
The story contains detailed accounts from three women and one man, who say Conlin sexually assaulted them when they were children. There are also detailed recollections from parents of the victims about the children telling them what happened to them.
None of them went to police at the time, but Conlin’s niece came forward, last year, out of concern for Conlin’s grandchildren. She went to prosecutors in New Jersey, where the abuse is alleged to have occurred, but the statute of limitations in effect at the time of the alleged abuse prevented them from taking action.
Daily News and Inquirer publisher Greg Osberg says he was sickened by the allegations in the story by Inquirer reporter Nancy Phillips, “We have always taken tremendous pride in the ethical and moral standards we operate from at the Philadelphia Media Network.”
Through his attorney, Conlin declined comment, but attorney George Bochetto says he’s floored by the accusations, “He has engaged me to do everything possible to bring the true facts forward and to vindicate this man.”
But, Inquirer editor Stan Wischnowski says the paper found the victims credible, “These folks had gone to the Gloucester County prosecutor’s office and had taken videotaped testimony.”
Wischnowski says Phillips worked on the story for a month to assure accuracy, “If we’ve learned anything in this sort of Penn State, Syracuse aftermath it’s that you have to pay attention and particularly when it’s something of this nature that somebody is actually a fellow employee.”
Platt says he accepted Conlin’s offer to retire over the phone. “It was a painful conversation,” Platt says.