Bob Oliva, who officially resigned as coach in 2009 and is perhaps the biggest name in Queens high school basketball, was indicted last week by a Massachusetts grand jury on two counts of rape of a child and one count of disseminating pornography to a child.
The names of sexual assault victims are not released, but last year a man named Jimmy Carlino sent Oliva a letter demanding $750,000 and his resignation as head coach at the Middle Village school, or he would go public with accusations that Oliva molested him for years during the 1970s, when Carlino was just a teenager. When Oliva refused, Carlino made good on his promise and called the press.
Most of the alleged abuse occurred in New York, but Carlino says Oliva molested him on a trip to Boston to see the Yankees play the Red Sox at Fenway Park in 1976. Carlino reported the alleged attack to Boston authorities last year, sparking the investigation.
Oliva has repeatedly denied the allegations, stating that Carlino had fallen on hard times and that he was trying to extort money from him.
Prosecutors in New York would have had a difficult time prosecuting Oliva because even if true, the statute of limitations on the abuse would have expired. However, the clock on the statute of limitations in Massachusetts stops ticking once the abuser leaves the state.
In addition to Carlino, other New Yorkers with ties to Christ the King, including former Mets and Yankees pitcher Allen Watson, traveled to Boston in February to testify before the grand jury. Two other men reportedly also testified, and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office has not ruled out additional charges.
Carlino's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, has represented numerous victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. He was quoted in published reports saying the indictment “speaks volumes” about the seriousness of the alleged crimes and the substantiveness of the evidence.
Sources: doubtful Oliva would ask Albano to lie
Also testifying was Sam Albano, who claims to have once been a friend of Oliva's, and who saw the coach and Carlino that fateful day in Boston back in 1976 outside of a bar near Fenway Park. He told a local newspaper that in July of 2008, Oliva called him and asked Albano to lie to the grand jury and say that he spent the night in the hotel room with he and Carlino in Boston.
However, several independent sources with knowledge of the relationship between Oliva and Albano all verified that interactions between the two were often far from friendly, and several times turned confrontational, dating back to when Albano's son was trying to make the Christ the King basketball team more than a decade ago.
His son was eventually named equipment manager for the team and according to accounts of a number of sources not involved with this case, Albano would not forgive Oliva – and Oliva knew it.
All of the sources were dubious that given the pair's past Oliva would ask Albano to lie for him in front of a grand jury, as was reported in The Daily News last week.
Nothing unusual about Oliva hanging with kids
Oliva and Carlino first met nearly 40 years ago when Carlino was just a seven-year-old kid and Oliva was a young coach in his 20s running the youth basketball program at St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church on 130th Street and 109th Avenue in Jamaica. The two became very close, and were at times inseparable. To this day, Carlino still refers to Oliva as his “godfather.”
One former player of Oliva's – who spoke to this paper on the condition of anonymity - said he went to several Yankees games in the Bronx with Oliva during the years he played for him during the '90s. And he wasn't the only one – the former player said there was nothing unusual about the coach taking kids to baseball games as well as other events.
“Nothing happened,” said the player. “He picked me up at my house, we drove to the game, and then he dropped me off afterwards. I never, ever had a feeling there was anything wrong with it – and he took a number of us to games. We had a great time, they were all memorable.”
Oliva will be arraigned on April 12 on charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. According to Oliva's attorney, Michael Doolin, the case will likely go to trial sometime next spring.
“Bob Oliva looks forward to coming to Boston and clearing his name,” said Doolin by phone from Massachusetts on Monday, “and he is confident that once a jury hears all of the facts in the case he will be found innocent.”