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Legendary Philadelphia sportswriter and Pinellas resident Bill Conlin accused of child sex abuse

Bill Conlin, a Largo resident, retired after four people said he abused them as children.

Associated Press

Bill Conlin, a Largo resident, retired after four people said he abused them as children.

LARGO — Longtime Philadelphia sports columnist, ESPN commentator and Largo resident Bill Conlin declined to comment Tuesday about a Philadelphia Inquirer story reporting that four people have accused him of sexually abusing them during the 1970s when they were children.

According to the Inquirer, the three women and one man say Conlin groped and fondled them, and that people who knew about it, including family members, never called police and kept the abuse secret.

According to the newspaper, Conlin, 77, retired Tuesday from his job at the Inquirer's sister paper, the Philadelphia Daily News, where he had worked for more than 40 years.

As sports radio and TV buzzed with the news, Conlin came to the door of his Shipwatch condominium near Largo Tuesday afternoon and said he had nothing to say. He gave a reporter the phone number of his attorney.

Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto told the St. Petersburg Times, "Mr. Conlin is obviously floored by these accusations. They supposedly happened more than 40 years ago."

Bochetto said Conlin "has engaged me to do everything possible to bring the facts forward to vindicate his name."

Conlin is well known in Pinellas County, where he has lived off and on for years while covering Philadelphia Phillies spring training games in Clearwater. A Hall of Fame baseball writer, Conlin was the primary Phillies writer for the Philadelphia paper for many years before becoming a columnist.

One of Conlin's neighbors in the Shipwatch condos, Michael Hannin, 73, said his neighbor is an intelligent man and did a great job of taking care of his wife after she had a stroke a few years ago.

"I would be shocked if any of that was true," Hannin said of the allegations.

One of Conlin's accusers is reportedly his niece. She and the other accusers told the Inquirer that the reports of alleged sexual assaults and a cover-up at Penn State prompted them to tell their story publicly. The lengthy Inquirer story contains graphic descriptions of the alleged abuse.

The accusers told the newspaper they also wanted to demonstrate the problems with the statute of limitations for sexual assaults. The Inquirer reported that local prosecutors cannot charge Conlin because the statute of limitations ran out.

Conlin won this year's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing," voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The BBWAA said the accusations would not affect his award.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Will Hobson can be reached at whobson@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4167.

Legendary Philadelphia sportswriter and Pinellas resident Bill Conlin accused of child sex abuse 12/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 9:18pm]
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