SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WFAN/AP) – Federal agents have searched the campus office of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine as part of the investigation of child molestation allegations against him, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the inquiry.
Fine’s office at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center was searched early Tuesday morning, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because it’s an ongoing investigation.
The U.S. Secret Service already searched Fine’s house last Friday. Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office in northern New York, which is leading the investigation, would not say what they sought or found there, saying it was under seal. The warrant approving the search of his office also was sealed.
Three men, including two former Syracuse ballboys, have accused Fine of molesting them as children. He has denied the allegations. The university fired him Sunday after a third accuser went public and ESPN broadcast a 2002 audiotape, obtained and recorded by accuser Bobby Davis, of a conversation between Davis and a woman ESPN identified as Fine’s wife, Laurie, in which she says she knew “everything that went on.”
Fine’s latest accuser, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, appeared Wednesday on Anderson Cooper’s afternoon talk show.
In that interview, Tomaselli said he has offered to take a lie detector test, has cooperated with investigators and that there was evidence to support his account that he traveled on a bus to Pittsburgh for a January 2002 away game and stayed with Fine in a hotel room, where Tomaselli accused Fine of putting porn on the TV and fondling him.
“At first, Bernie put a pornographic show on the television, asked me to masturbate, watched me masturbate for the first time in my life and then moments later, sat on the bed next to me, fondling me and putting his hands down my shorts four to five times over the course of several hours,” said Tomaselli.
Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, declined to say what the evidence was, saying it would hinder the investigation.
“It is not an excuse for touching children, and I’m not saying I touched anybody,” said Tomaselli. “But I am saying the situation I put myself in to be accused was because there was a great disconnect in my mind between what is an appropriate relationship between an adult and a child.”
Pittsburgh police said they will let federal prosecutors in New York handle that alleged local incident. Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said Tomaselli called city police, but that Pittsburgh investigators never formally interviewed him after learning the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse is investigating.
As the investigation continues, advocates for sex abuse victims have said Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim should resign or be fired for adamantly defending Fine and verbally disparaging the accusers.
Contacted by The Associated Press by phone Wednesday, Boeheim repeated several times, “I can’t talk about anything.”
On Tuesday afternoon, asked to comment on Boeheim’s status Tuesday afternoon, Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said: “Coach Boeheim is our coach.”
University trustees have been instructed to refer all questions back to the university but some contacted by The Associated Press offered support for Boeheim and said there was no indication his job was in danger.
“I have not heard anything but complete support for Coach Boeheim,” said trustee Michael Wohl. “Coach Boeheim hasn’t done anything wrong. At this point, we’re completely behind the coach.”
University spokesman Kevin Quinn said it’s policy to refer all comment to the university during an ongoing investigation, and most of the 70 active trustees contacted by the AP did that.
“I personally stand with our Chancellor Nancy Cantor that he’s our coach,” Reinaldo Pascual said. He declined further comment.
Boeheim himself addressed the topic after Tuesday night’s win over Eastern Michigan.
“I never worried about my job status in 36 years,” Boeheim said at his first postgame news conference since Fine was fired. “I do my job. What happened on my watch, we will see. When the investigation is done, we will find out what happened on my watch.”
Davis first contacted Syracuse police in 2002 regarding Fine, but there was no investigation because the statute of limitations had passed. In 2005, Davis went to the university, which did its own investigation, but the school said the accusations could not be corroborated.
On Nov. 17, Davis’ allegations resurfaced.
Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis said the abuse occurred at Fine’s home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four. Davis’ stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in the fifth or sixth grade.
Repeated attempts to reach Davis and Lang have been unsuccessful.
Ex-Syracuse basketball star and current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told the AP on Wednesday that when he called Fine about the allegations earlier this month, Fine denied it.
“I called Bernie and he said `absolutely not,’” when asked about the claims,” Bing said. “He thought it would blow over and said there was no truth to it, and I accepted that.”
Bing said he shares a “strong friendship” with Fine and Boeheim. Bing said he and Boeheim have tried to reach each other by phone since the scandal broke but have yet to speak.
“I don’t know the truth,” Bing said. “My position is let this thing play and see where the truth is.”
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