D.A. Fitzpatrick says Bernie Fine left many victims
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 11:36:31 GMT —
Many of the key names in the sex abuse investigation of ex-Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine are well-known by now: Bobby Davis, Michael Lang, Zach Tomaselli.
All three say they were molested by Fine when they were boys. Two, Davis and Lang, were ballboys for the team.
On Wednesday, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he believes Davis and Lang were abused by Fine. He said some records may call into question Tomaselli's account that he was abused by Fine.
The DA said the statute of limitations has expired on the Davis and Lang accusations. Tomaselli's claims are within the federal statute of limitations.
Fitzpatrick lashed out at Fine and added other names to the list of what he says are victims: Fine's longtime friend, Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim, the university and the city.
"Hasn't Bernie Fine caused enough pain in this community?" Fitzpatrick said.
Davis went to the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper in 2002 and ESPN in 2003; neither media outlet could corroborate his claims. He went to the police, too, in 2002, and a detective told him the statute of limitations had expired. Three years later, he went to the university; Syracuse had its lawyers do an internal investigation and says it, too, couldn't verify Davis' accusations.
Then, on Nov. 17, with the country still caught up in the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, where a former assistant football coach is accused of molesting 10 boys, Davis came forward on ESPN. Then Lang came forward. Ten days later, Tomaselli spoke out. That day, Nov. 27, ESPN aired a tape in which a woman it identified as Fine's wife tells Davis she knew "everything" that was going on.
The university fired Fine that day.
Fitzpatrick called the tape "devastating."
Fitzpatrick expressed regret he couldn't bring charges against Fine on the Davis and Lang accusations because the statute of limitations has expired. While he said he couldn't say whether the coach would be found guilty of any charges, he said flatly that if the claims had been brought within the statute, and if law enforcement knew of the tape, it "would have resulted in the arrest of Bernie Fine for child molestation."
Fine, who was fired Nov. 27, has denied the charges.
"Bobby, I'm sorry it took so long," Fitzpatrick said. "I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in 2002. Even more importantly, I wish I had met you as a prosecutor back in the 1980s. We wouldn't be here today."
When he went public again last month, Davis was maligned by Boeheim as an opportunist and a liar, accusations the coach later apologized for, saying he was defending a friend out of loyalty without knowing all the information. Victim advocates called for him to quit or be fired. Fitzpatrick said Boeheim, one of the top college coaches in the nation whose team is currently ranked No. 3, was victimized by Fine, too.
"He let his friend go out and attack the victims, never once warning him they were telling the truth," Fitzpatrick said. "Then stood by and did nothing while that friend was vilified."
Fitzpatrick also said calls for the resignation of university Chancellor Nancy Cantor were baseless.
The statute of limitations expired five years after Davis and Lang say they were molested. But the federal statute of limitations in place in 2002, when Tomaselli says he was abused by Fine in a Pittsburgh hotel room, allowed a victim to bring charges until he was 25; Tomaselli is 23.
Fine's lawyers, Donald Martin and Karl Sleight, said in a statement that it appears the records Fitzpatrick mentioned show "that there is proof that Tomaselli fabricated this allegation."
Tomaselli's phone rang unanswered Wednesday.
Tomaselli also is charged in Maine with molesting a teenage boy and said this week that he'll plead guilty.
The 65-year-old Fine had been Boeheim's top assistant since 1976. The U.S. attorney's office is investigating and has seized computers, cameras, phones and records during searches of his office, home and locker.
Even with the support of the district attorney, whose words wouldn't be admissible in a civil lawsuit, neither Lang nor Davis can bring civil action against Fine.
The statute of limitations in New York on bringing a civil suit for child sexual abuse is five years after the victim turns 18. New York lawmakers are again considering a measure to lift it or open a one-year window for older incidents that, if approved, would open the way for a civil suit by Davis or Lang.
Repeated attempts by The Associated Press to contact Davis and Lang have been unsuccessful. Knocks on the doors of their two houses were unanswered Wednesday after Fitzpatrick's statement.
A woman hanging Christmas lights outside the Fines' house said the couple is in Florida.
Fitzpatrick said the case can't be compared to Penn State, where head football coach Joe Paterno and college administrators knew of the accusations against Jerry Sandusky, who maintains his innocence.