The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Nancy Phillips reports that former Philadelphia Daily New columnist Bill Conlin, who retired from the paper as of today, has been accused by three women and one man with molesting them as children in the 1970’s. While Conlin denies the charges thru his attorney, the quartet claim they were provoked to go public by recent stories out of State College, PA, though they did speak to authorities last year.

“I’m really sorry that I didn’t do something more at the time,” said Barbara Healey, whose son and daughter told her that Conlin molested them in the 1970s. “Call the police is what I should have done.”

Looking back, Karen Healey said she was astounded that the parents and others reacted as they did.

“Nobody called the cops,” said Healey, now 44, a mother of three, and a corporate sales executive. “Everyone went back to living their lives.

Last year, Conlin’s niece, Kelly Blanchet, Kevin Healey, Karen Healey, and another woman from the neighborhood gave prosecutors videotaped testimony about the abuse they said they suffered at Conlin’s hands years ago. New Jersey’s current law has no statute of limitations on sex crimes, so they were hopeful that Conlin might finally be held to account, Blanchet said.

But the law in place today, enacted in 1996, is not retroactive. “I didn’t realize it, and I’m a prosecutor,” she said.

In a recent column, “Tough Guys Are Talking About Sandusky,” Conlin questioned people who said they would have intervened had they seen Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach, abusing a child: “Everybody says he will do the right thing, get involved, put his own ass on the line before or after the fact. But the moment itself has a cruel way of suspending our fearless intentions.”

There’s no shortage of ugly details in Phillips’ story, one that unless thoroughly proven inaccurate by Conlin, overshadows journalism career more than a half century old.  Though some portions of that career have already exposed Conlin to be — and this is being very diplomatic — a deeply flawed human being, there’s generally greater tolerance on the part of the public for curmudgeons / borderline racists, so long as they aren’t sexually assaulting children.