2005 Syracuse Probe Found No Abuse Evidence
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A 2005 investigation ordered by Syracuse University into sex-abuse allegations against a former assistant men’s basketball coach found no witnesses who believed the accuser’s story.
The inquiry’s final report, obtained by The Post-Standard of Syracuse, shows in detail how the school reacted to former ball boy Bobby Davis’ accusations against then-assistant coach Bernie Fine. At no point does the report raise concerns about Fine’s admitted longstanding, close relationship with a ball boy or Davis’ proximity to the basketball team.
Fine, 66, was fired in November, during his 36th year on the staff, after the allegations became public. He has denied the accusations and has not been charged. A federal investigation is still under way.
Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor declined to comment Monday because the 2005 investigation is being reviewed and because of a lawsuit filed by Davis. The university said it would not release the document because it promised confidentiality to the participants.
Davis’ lawyer criticized the university, saying officials had yet to clarify what they knew.
ESPN first aired Davis’ accusations in the fall, but he had approached police and The Post-Standard years earlier. The university had a law firm look into the claims after Davis contacted the school in 2005.
Lawyers took statements from seven people, most who said that they believed Davis was a liar and that he likely made up the allegations because he was angry at Fine. Head coach Jim Boeheim was contacted by investigators but not formally interviewed because he was not identified as a witness. Boeheim said “these kinds of allegations” had previously been raised by Davis to the Post-Standard and ESPN, according to the report.
Three pages of the report recap Fine’s statement to investigators. While denying Davis’ sex abuse allegations, the former assistant coach said Davis lived at Fine’s house and went on vacations with the family. Fine said he loaned Davis money and gave him weight-lifting privileges on campus, even though Davis was not a student, the report said.
According to the report, the university began its investigation after Chancellor Cantor received an anonymous email in September 2005 alleging an unidentified coach had molested young boys. In a later email to the university, Davis said Fine molested him starting in sixth or seventh grade and continued abusing him until he was 26, according to the report.
The case was referred to the university’s human resources department and to Bond, Schoeneck & King, the university’s longtime law firm, which investigated Davis’ claims and wrote the report.
The report says Fine played for investigators a phone message Davis left in October 2004 in which Davis apologizes for something, although it’s not clear for what.
The report describes Fine’s wife, Laurie, as “the only purported witness to the alleged sexual conduct.” She told the university that Davis is a “pathological liar” and that her husband did not abuse Davis.
The report also says “Laurie Fine indicated that she never discussed the issue of Bernie Fine’s engaging in sexual misconduct with Robert Davis.”
Davis also provided Syracuse University with the names of other men he suspected Fine molested.
Of the seven people the university interviewed, only one, Ludwig Vita, fell into that category. And Vita said Fine had never sexually molested him or touched him inappropriately.
Vita told the university that he’d known Fine for 30 years, lived with Fine when Vita was in 10th grade and considers Fine a good friend, according to the report. He also told the university he never saw Fine “act inappropriately” with Davis or anyone else, the report said.
The university hired the New York City firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in November to examine the 2005 report and make recommendations about what the university should do in future cases.
Richard Thompson, president of the university’s board of trustees, said the school would release that report when it is completed and comment on it.
A judge last month threw out a defamation lawsuit that Davis and his stepbrother, Michael Lang, brought against Syracuse University and Boeheim.
Their lawyer, Gloria Allred, on Monday emailed a statement to The Associated Press saying the university had refused to share the 2005 report or to provide information about its current inquiry.
“We find it remarkable that the university still has failed to issue any statement regarding what it knew and did not know,” Allred wrote.
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