Thursday, July 31, 2008

Christ the King Coach Accused of Sex Abuse

Bob Oliva Accused by Former Family Friend

by Conor Greene

The head basketball coach at city powerhouse Christ the King high school has been accused of sexually abusing a family friend who he took under his wing decades ago.

Bob Oliva, a longtime coach of the parochial school’s varsity boys basketball team and a member of its Hall of Fame, was accused of repeatedly molesting Jimmy Carlino starting when the boy was 13-years-old.

The allegations were first made in a letter sent to Oliva in April from a law firm in Florida, where Carlino lives. At that point, Oliva informed the Middle Village school’s board of trustees and administration of the allegations. On May 1, attorney David Ristoff sent Oliva a letter notifying him that Carlino will drop the matter in exchange for a payment of $750,000 and Oliva’s resignation from the school by the end of the 2008 school year.

“I have been retained by James Carlino regarding a matter of personal nature involving your prior contact to him,” wrote Ristoff in the letter, which was obtained by The Forum. “While it is best left to discretion not to elaborate on those personal issues at this juncture, it is the wishes of Mr. Carlino to resolve any and all matters with you on a personal and confidential basis.”

The letter instructs Oliva to forward “this demand” to his attorney. “If you our your counsel wish to accept this demand then you may forward a certified check in the amount of $750,000... and proof of your resignation,” wrote Ristoff. In exchange for the payment, Carlino would “execute a release and confidentiality agreement as to both the underlying factual basis of the dispute as well as an agreement to maintain the confidentially of the settlement amount.”

The letter notes that, “As you can imagine, Mr. Carlino has suffered significant psychological damage that has effected [sic] every aspect of his life and career.”

Thomas Ognibene, a member of the school’s board of trustees, said he doubts the claims given Oliva’s track record overseeing thousands of children over several decades coaching. “It’s a lot of nonsense, but unfortunately he has to be subjected to this,” said Ognibene. “He used to be like a godfather to the kid, he met him when he was eight and basically took care of this kid for a number of years. The kid had gambling and drug problems, and Bob stood with him.”

Late last year, Oliva decided to drop Carlino from his will, which Ognibene speculates led to the accusations. “He [Oliva] said, ‘I can’t help you anymore and I’m taking you out of my will,’ which I understand was a pretty substantial amount,” said Ognibene. “As soon as that happened, the kid had an epiphany and said Bob Oliva molested me when I was a kid.”

After Oliva received the letter, his response to Carlino was, “You are out of your mind, I never touched you, it’s a disgrace, do what you have to do,” said Ognibene. “This is simply a matter of extortion. I told him, this is a bridge you have to cross.”

Oliva met Carlino, who attended Archbishop Molloy High School, when the coach owned a bar in Ozone Park called the Short Porch. Carlino’s father was a bartender there, and Oliva sometimes paid the boy to clean the bar, according to the Daily News. He also coached Carlino in the Catholic Youth Organization athletic league.

Ognibene said that Oliva’s track record leads him to believe the accusations are false and Carlino is trying to shake down the coach. “For 29 years, I’ve known Bob Oliva, who has had access in locker rooms, on trips, in hotels, to thousands of kids over the years, and I never once hard a hit or rumor of this,” said Ognibene. “A person who had opportunity to deal with children on a close personal basis never had one complaint, and that tells me more than anything that comes out of a person’s mouth.”

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