Another woman comes forward over abuse by Bill Conlin

Posted: December 21, 2011

Another woman has come forward to say that Bill Conlin, the Hall of Fame baseball writer and former Philadelphia Daily News columnist, sexually assaulted her when she was a child.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said Conlin repeatedly abused her when she was about 7 and lived in the Whitman Square section of Washington Township, Gloucester County. She was a childhood friend of Conlin's son, Peter, and often spent time at his house nearby. It was there, she said, that Conlin molested her.

She is the fifth person to tell The Inquirer that Conlin assaulted her. On Tuesday, Conlin retired from the Daily News hours before The Inquirer reported that three women and a man said Conlin had abused them when they were children in the 1970s.

The woman spoke out Wednesday as the sports-oriented website Deadspin published an e-mail exchange between Conlin and Deadspin reporter A.J. Daulerio in which Conlin fretted about a then-expected story in The Inquirer that would report the stories of abuse. He contacted Daulerio, who had written a favorable story about him for Philadelphia Magazine, on Monday, less than a half-hour after an Inquirer reporter called him at his Florida condominium for comment on the allegations that he had abused children.

In e-mail messages to Daulerio, Conlin derided his accusers as "late middle-aged women" who decided it was "Sandusky time," a reference to former Pennsylvania State University coach Jerry Sandusky, who is charged with sexually abusing boys.

"I'm a lot bigger to the Daily News than Sandusky ever was to Penn State," he wrote. And yet, Daulerio wrote, Conlin feared the loss of his career.

"They can toss my good name out there while alleging a crime that was never charged?" Conlin wrote. "F- that."

Nowhere in the e-mail exchange did Conlin deny that any abuse occurred.

Conlin told Daulerio, who described himself as a longtime admirer of Conlin's, that he hoped to explain himself to Deadspin's "huge audience" but wanted first to see if "they [The Inquirer] name names. I'm sure the accusers were promised anonymity." In the story, three of the accusers, including Conlin's niece, were named.

After hanging up on an Inquirer reporter, Conlin, 77, said via e-mail, "My attorney will be in touch. . . . I've been doing this 51 years. My attorney will do my talking."

When he spoke to Daulerio, the reporter wrote, Conlin was "angry, funny, discursive - but he was also obviously scared."

"He talked about suicide," Daulerio wrote, "and I'm still not sure if he was joking." Conlin had written, "I'm at my condo at Shipwatch in Largo, hanging out with the fishes I might opt to sleep with if this sees the light of day."

Daulerio said Conlin told him he worried that if the allegations were made public, his family - particularly his grandchildren - would suffer. He said he believed the accusations were being made in part because of what he described as a "decades-old family vendetta."

One of Conlin's accusers is his niece Kelley Blanchet, who said her uncle sexually assaulted her decades ago when she was 7. Her brother walked in on the assault and told his mother, who told his father, she said.

Blanchet's father, Harry Hasson, said he angrily confronted Conlin, who broke into tears and insisted that he had only touched the girl's leg. From that point on, Hasson said, the relationship between his family and that of his brother-in-law was strained.

The woman who came forward Wednesday described abuse mirroring that described by the other accusers.

She said Conlin groped and fondled her as she sat in his living room watching television. And she said he assaulted her in an upstairs bedroom after inviting her to see a litter of kittens.

"It was so upsetting," said the woman, now 44 and a mother of three. She said that on two occasions, Conlin touched her genitals and put his fingers inside her.

(The Inquirer is withholding the woman's name in keeping with its policy of not identifying people who say they have been victims of sexual assault unless they agree to be named.)

The woman said the assaults ended when she told her mother. She recalled that her father angrily confronted Conlin.

"I just remember my mom holding my dad back and two of them [Conlin and her father] screaming at each other," she said.

Through his lawyer, George Bochetto, Conlin has said he was "floored" by the abuse allegations and vowed to clear his name. Bochetto could not be reached for comment Wednesday. In the hours before The Inquirer posted the story on its website Tuesday, Bochetto said Conlin specifically denied discussing the story with Daulerio.

Conlin, a leading voice on baseball, received the 2011 J.G. Spink Award, named for a publisher of the Sporting News and presented at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. That honor put him in the company of some of the most celebrated sportswriters in the country.

On Wednesday, Bill Shaikin, president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which selects the Spink winner, said: "We were shocked and saddened to learn of the allegations involving Bill Conlin, and we extend our sympathies to everyone involved. This is a matter far more serious than baseball and, at this point, a matter best left to the proper authorities."

A day earlier, in a statement that was widely criticized, the group's secretary-treasurer, Jack O'Connell, did not express sympathy for Conlin's accusers in saying the matter would have no effect on Conlin's award status.

Four of Conlin's accusers gave videotaped statements to Gloucester County prosecutors last year. In a statement Wednesday, Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton said his office had conducted "an exhaustive investigation," but concluded that no charges could be filed because the statute of limitations on any crimes had expired.

Dalton, who said his office would have no further comment on the matter, urged victims of sexual assault to contact law enforcement.

Conlin's initial accusers, who have been besieged with media inquiries since the story broke, have enlisted Philadelphia lawyer Slade McLaughlin to serve as their spokesman. McLaughlin, who represents one of Sandusky's accusers, has sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on behalf of victims of sexual abuse by priests.

On Wednesday, McLaughlin said he applauded the decision of Conlin's accusers to speak out about the abuse.

"I really think these women have done a great service for all the people who think that people who are abusing kids are easily recognizable - that they have a mohawk haircut or a patch over their eye," he said.

In reality, he said, "it's the Little League coach, the uncle, the top of our society."

"Who would ever think that Sandusky would do these things? Who would ever think that Conlin would do these things?"


Contact staff writer Nancy Phillips at 215-854-2254, nphillips@phillynews.com or @PhillipsNancy on Twitter.

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