DA calls Fine accusers credible, but can't prosecute
By SPORTS NETWORK
|Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim (right), along with assistant coach Bernie Fine (left), watch the final seconds of a game against Villanova in 2006. (REUTERS/Bradley C. Bower/Files)
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick addressed the investigation into the sexual abuse allegations against former Syracuse basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine and called the accusers credible, but also said the statute of limitations has passed and his office cannot file charges.
Fitzpatrick spoke on Wednesday and said he believes Bobby Davis and Mike Lang are both credible in their accusations against Fine, who was fired on November 27 in the wake of the allegations. Fine has denied any wrongdoing.
Davis and Lang have accused Fine of molesting them when they were boys, starting in the 1980s.
The 65-year-old Fine had been Jim Boeheim's top assistant at Syracuse since 1976 before his firing last month. Boeheim steadfastly first defended Fine, a friend since the 1960s, but has since backtracked and said he was wrong to question the accusers' motives.
"It is not my place to pronounce Bernie Fine guilty of anything," said Fitzpatrick, who indicated that his office would have pursued the allegations fervently if it had been made aware of them prior to November 17. "It is my place to confirm that these two victims are credible."
Fitzpatrick said Davis and Lang were consistent and appeared truthful in their accounts.
"On almost every single criteria, Bobby Davis came out as a credible person," Fitzpatrick added. "Mike Lang also comes across as a credible person."
Both the Syracuse police department and Syracuse University investigated Davis' claims years ago.
The DA did not overly criticize Syracuse police when the department was first informed of the allegations in 2002, but did say that "more should have been done to encourage Bobby Davis to come forward."
As for the four-month Syracuse University investigation in 2005, Fitzpatrick called it "inadequate."
Fitzpatrick did say the university has been cooperative since the allegations again surfaced last month and said people should not be calling for resignations of Boeheim and others in the Syracuse University community.
"The bottom line is to let the person with the biggest stake in all of this speak for all us," Fitzpatrick said about Davis. "He's not calling for anyone to resign. He just doesn't want what happened to him to happen to anyone else."
Fitzpatrick apologized to Davis, saying he wished that he had come forward sooner.
"Bobby, I'm sorry it took so long," Fitzpatrick stated. "I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in 2002. I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in the 1980s. We wouldn't be here today."
Fitzpatrick said Zach Tomaselli's case, the third accuser to come forward, is in the hands of federal authorities because the alleged abuse occurred outside of Onondaga County.
Tomaselli has alleged that Fine sexually abused him in Pittsburgh during a Syracuse road trip in 2002, but Fitzpatrick indicated that he had turned over "exculpatory evidence" to defense attorneys.
That evidence, which is helpful to the defense, includes records from Tomaselli's school district and Syracuse University travel and hotel records.
In addition, there was a reported fourth victim that Fitzpatrick said is not credible.