The former associate head coach of the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team will not be charged after a year-long investigation into sexual abuse, according to the federal prosecutor handling the case.
The U.S. Attorneyâ??s Office in Syracuse has announced that, "A thorough, year-long investigation arising from allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Bernard 'Bernie' Fine has revealed insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal charges. As a result, the United States Attorneyâ??s Office is closing its investigation."
The office says it filed documents in court Friday ending the investigation, and neither Fine nor anyone else in the case will be charged with any crimes.
Syracuse University responded to the news in a statement issued to CNY Central on Friday morning. "We cooperated and we apprecicate the extensive work the U.S. Attorney and his staff did over these past months," said Kevin Quinn, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs. "The decision last November regarding Mr. Fine's employment was the appropriate step to take, and it was made in the best interest of the University."
Fine was a 35-year assistant to head coach Jim Boeheim, but was fired in November 2011 after allegations surfaced that he sexually molested ball boys during his tenure at Syracuse University. Two of those ball boys, Michael Lang and Robert 'Bobby' Davis, claimed that Fine inappropriately touched them on several occasions in the 1980s. Fine has steadfastly denied the allegations.
When contacted for comment, the Syracuse University Athletic Department said neither Boeheim nor Athletic Director Daryl Gross would be available today.
In a statement to the media, the U.S. Attorney's Office says that over the past year, "approximately 130 witnesses were interviewed and investigators examined over 100,000 pages of documents, including electronic mail messages, financial records, travel records, and other materials, as well as items seized during the execution of federal search warrants."
Prosecutors also say, "The closure of our investigation does not constitute a determination of what did or did not happen -- only that a thorough investigation has not revealed sufficient admissible evidence to obtain and sustain a federal conviction. Mr. Fine retains the presumption of innocence that is an integral aspect of our system of justice."
â??The nature and seriousness of these allegations, which involved conduct typically committed in private with individuals who are reluctant to come forward, warranted a thorough federal investigation,â?? said United States Attorney Richard Hartunian.
The lawyers representing Bernie Fine say they're not surprised by the decision to drop the investigation. In a statement released Friday morning, lawyers Karl Sleight, Donald Martin and David Botsford said, in part: "The damage inflicted upon Bernie and his family is simply immeasurable. Bernie deeply appreciates the tremendous outpouring of support from friends, family and the community throughout this difficult time. Bernie hopes and prays that the lesson learned and remembered is that a rush to judgment has irreversible consequences."
Laurie Fine's attorney issued a statement Friday afternoon regarding her libel case against ESPN: "1000â??s of pages of documents, 100â??s of witnesses, numerous investigations and countless government resources have established the inevitable truth that ESPN recklessly broadcast vicious lies that severely damaged the Fine family reputation. Todayâ??s determination by the federal government could not be more compelling when it comes to Laurie Fineâ??s pursuit of justice in the federal court."In a statement from Gloria Allred, attorney for Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, she says that, "The DOJ's decision does not indicate that there is or is not merit to the allegations against Mr. Fine and it does not vindicate him. To the contrary, many individuals in both in state and federal law enforcement have stated repeatedly that they believe Bobby Davis was credible when he reported his allegations of sexual abuse by Bernie Fine."Allred reiterated that Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick publicly stated his belief in Davis and Langâ??s credibility but says "the statute of limitations prevents him from prosecuting a case." Allred calls on New York legislature to pass the Markey Bill which would change and extend the statute of limitations."We are proud of our client Bobby Davis, for his courage in speaking out. He has done so in the hope that it will empower other victims of child sexual abuse and protect children," says Allred .In a statement from Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler, he says they were presented with "compelling evidence and allegations of child sexual abuse." Fowler says their year-long investigation "has determined that no state or federal charges are possible at this time."Fowler says that child abuse remains a serious problem in the community and that, "it is our responsibility to thoroughly investigate any allegations and to do our best to protect children from these predators." Fowler encourages anyone with information on any current or past child sexual abuse to report it immediately.
CNY Central is following this story today and will have more information on the NBC3 and CBS5 news at 5:00 as well as here at CNYcentral.com.
(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)