FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Fresno State point guard Dominick Young has filed suit accusing The Fresno Bee of libel for reporting that Young is the focus of a point-shaving investigation.
A Superior Court lawsuit filed Monday contends that Bee articles falsely accused Young of criminal activity and that Young “has consorted with illegal bookies, gamblers, criminals and other scoundrels.”
The lawsuit, which seeks $11.2 million in general and punitive damages, said Young has never shaved points nor conspired with anyone else to do so.
Nicholas Wagner, one of Young’s lawyers, said the suit was filed after McClatchy Newspapers, which owns The Bee, refused to retract its reports, saying it has reason to believe they are true.
“However, the letter, as did the articles, is devoid of any reliable sources of point-shaving, which is really the point here,” Wagner said at a press conference.
The Bee’s executive editor, J. Keith Moyer, defended the newspaper’s coverage:
“The Bee continues to stand firmly behind its reporting of investigations into possible point-shaving during Fresno State’s basketball games,” Moyer said. “We will vigorously defend this action and believe a full and complete airing of the facts in any court of law will validate The Bee’s efforts to provide balanced news coverage on this topic.”
Moyer added that “the threat of potential litigation has never deterred us from seeking the truth. We remain confident that The Bee’s coverage of this matter will pass any legal test.”
The lawsuit claims that the articles hurt Young’s chances of playing professional basketball.
“Dominick has been hurt tremendously; I don’t think he’s going to get a look,” attorney Ernest Kinney said of the chance that Young will be drafted by a NBA team or be invited to a pre-draft camp.
The Bee has reported that federal and university investigations of point-shaving rumors have focused on guards Young and Chris Herren. Both have denied shaving points, an illegal practice by which a player tries to keep the score of a game below the point spread to favor certain gamblers.
The city newspaper reported that Young was seen at a nightclub after one game talking with a businessman The Bee described as a major local sports bettor and bookie. The Bee also reported that Herren visited a Fresno pawnbroker who is a friend of the bookie.
Then, the Los Angeles Times reported that members of a Southern California bookmaking ring were told that Fresno State players were fixing games.
In addition, The Bee reported that Fresno State basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian’s personal business agent turned some game tickets over to the suspected sports bookie.