DA: Syracuse Statute Of Limitations Has Passed In Bernie Fine Case
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WFAN/CBSNewYork/AP) – A county district attorney who at first sharply criticized police and Syracuse University for their handling of sex-abuse allegations against an assistant basketball coach said Wednesday that he cannot bring charges but found that two men who accused him of sexual abuse are credible.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said his investigation into the claims against fired coach Bernie Fine started out to answer several questions, among them: Were the first two accusers, Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Michael Lang, being truthful?
“On almost every single criteria, Bobby Davis came out as a credible person,” the district attorney said. “Mike Lang also comes across as a credible person.”
In fact, Fitzpatrick said it wouldn’t have happened on his watch, reports CBS 2′s John Slattery.
“Bobby, if I had been prosecutor, this wouldn’t have happened,” Fitzpatrick said.
The accusations against Fine once appeared to threaten the job of Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, who has said he is unaware of any abuses happening during his tenure. The 65-year-old Fine, who had been Boeheim’s top assistant since 1976, has adamantly denied wrongdoing.
Boeheim at first vehemently defended his longtime friend and assistant and said the accusations were lies to make money in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. He later backtracked and said he was wrong to question the motives of the accusers.
Davis and Lang, both former ball boys for the team, have accused Fine of molesting them at his home, on the road with the team or in team facilities when they were boys. Fitzpatrick said allegations from a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Maine, don’t relate to Onondaga County.
“Bobby, I’m sorry it took so long,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said a 2005 probe by the university into Davis’ claims was inadequate but said people should stop calling for the resignation of Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Boeheim.
Blame, he said, stops with one man: “Hasn’t Bernie Fine caused enough pain in this community?” Fitzpatrick said.
He said it also was wrong to make any comparison to the sex scandal at Penn State University that cost legendary football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier their jobs.
“It’s not only inaccurate, it’s not fair,” he said.
Fine was fired after the three men made public accusations and ESPN played a 2002 recording of a phone call in which a woman ESPN identified as his wife tells an accuser she knew “everything that went on.”
“The significance of this tape cannot be overstated,” said Fitzpatrick. “Anyone listening to that tape cannot fail to understand that Bobby Davis is not being truthful, which makes it all the more confusing as to why the very people whose job it is to determine credibility, sufficiency of corroboration, what investigative leads to follow, namely Onondaga County prosecutors, were never informed of the existence of the tape and neither was the Syracuse police department. This was not a confidential source. Bobby Davis wanted his name to come forward.”
Tomaselli’s claims fall within federal statutes of limitations and are being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.
Investigators searched Fine’s home, office and school locker, looking for pornography that could be used “to sexually arouse or groom young males” to have sex, court records say. The investigators took computers, cameras, disks and records, among other things. They’re also looking for any records that would detail Fine’s contact with boys.
Fitzpatrick said he wouldn’t judge Fine.
“It is not my place to pronounce Bernie Fine guilty of anything,” he said.
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