Police to share Bernie Fine info with DA

Updated: November 29, 2011, 1:57 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Syracuse Police Department said it will turn over information it has uncovered relating to its sexual abuse investigation of Syracuse associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine, putting an end to a spat with the District Attorney's office that was headed to court on Tuesday.

A news release said: "The Syracuse Police Department will provide the information requested by the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday. As Mayor Stephanie Miner stated, the Syracuse Police Department would turn over all reports and documentation of this investigation at the appropriate time."

Last week, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick accused the police department of withholding information it had and went to court to get the data. The case was scheduled to be heard beginning Tuesday.

The settlement of that case was one of several developments in the Fine story on Monday, a day after he was fired by Syracuse after a 10-year-old voice recording of his wife emerged in which she acknowledges alleged sexual abuse and a third man accused the assistant basketball coach of molesting him nine years ago.

Fitzpatrick said that the Secret Service, under the direction of the local U.S. Attorney's office, is the lead investigative unit in the Fine case, rather than his.

"I've been in close contact with the U.S. Attorney," Fitzpatrick said at a news conference. "All of last week, we discussed the case. The lead agency in investigating is the Secret Service under the direction of the U.S. Attorney's Office, assisted by the Syracuse Police Department."

The police department said that having the Secret Service take over the investigation, "we have now moved into a new phase of the investigation."

The police department release said that the department and Chief Frank Fowler remain "committed to working with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service in this investigation."

Federal officials investigating Fine are not curbed by a statute of limitations should they turn up evidence Fine molested Zach Tomaselli, the third accuser to come forward, in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002.

Under federal law passed in 2002, prosecutions for the sexual or physical abuse or kidnapping of a child under 18 can continue until the victim turns 25. Subsequent amendments changed that to the life of the child or 10 years after the offense, whichever is longer.

On Monday, commander Thomas Stangrecki of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police said the department is aware of the charges made by Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine.

Stangrecki says he's waiting for confirmation from Syracuse police that a report was made as Tomaselli has not contacted Pittsburgh police.

John Duncan, executive assistant U.S. attorney in Syracuse, said a search warrant was executed Friday by the U.S. Secret Service at Fine's residence. He declined to say Monday what was sought or found, saying it remains under seal. "His home was searched," he said.

U.S. Secret Service agent Tim Kirk in Syracuse declined to comment and referred questions to Duncan.

Lee Kindlon, a criminal defense attorney who practices in state and federal courts in upstate New York, said while the statute of limitations won't bar federal prosecutors at this point, they have other issues including the credibility of the accuser and lack of physical proof.

"But these allegations are serious and I think the feds are doing the right thing and looking for proof to back up the accusations," he said.

Fine is accused by two former Syracuse ball boys -- Bobby Davis and Mike Lang -- of molesting and sexually abusing them for a decade-long period form the late 1970s through the early 1990s. Fine has called the allegations "patently false." Tomaselli came forward last week, accusing Fine of molesting him nine years ago.

In addition, a tape of a conversation between Davis and Fine's wife, Laurie -- provided by Davis to ESPN -- showed Davis repeatedly asking Laurie Fine about the alleged molestation.

"Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?" Davis asked.

"No ... I think there might have been others but it was geared to ... there was something about you," the woman on the tape said.

On the tape, she also says she knew "everything that went on."

"Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues. ... And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted ... " the woman on the tape said.

Davis told ESPN he made the recording, which also has been given to Syracuse police, without her knowledge because he knew he needed proof for the police to believe his accusations. ESPN hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine.

Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was about 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.

Lang, Davis' stepbrother who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.

Tomaselli said Sunday he told police that Fine molested him in a Pittsburgh hotel room nine years ago. Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said Fine touched him "multiple" times in that one incident. During a telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.

On Sunday, Tomaselli's father said he was lying.

In a phone interview with the AP, Fred Tomaselli said: "I'm 100 percent sure that Bernie Fine was never in contact with Zach. He never went to Pittsburgh to a game, never been to that arena."

Zach Tomaselli's friend, Rose Ryan of Lewiston, Maine, defended him Monday against his father's claim that he made up the story about being molested by Fine.

"He's not lying," said Ryan, who said Tomaselli provided detailed descriptions to police of the Pittsburgh hotel and of the interior of Fine's home.

The allegations against Fine surfaced a week after Penn State school trustees fired Joe Paterno in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is accused in a grand jury indictment of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.

Amid that child sex-abuse scandal, Penn State's trustees ousted Paterno and university president Graham Spanier. The trustees said Spanier and Paterno, who is not the target of any criminal investigation, failed to act after a graduate assistant claimed he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a campus shower in 2002. And two school administrators were charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and with perjury. They maintain their innocence.

The NCAA is monitoring developments.

"NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke today with Chancellor Nancy Cantor to let her know the NCAA is carefully monitoring the developments at Syracuse University, and Chancellor Cantor pledged her full cooperation in determining the facts," the NCAA said in a statement Monday. "The accusations of child sexual abuse reported in the media involving a former assistant men's basketball coach are deeply troubling. Furthermore, to have similar allegations involving coaches at two of the nation's major universities saddens every member of the Association.

"As facts emerge, we will determine what actions may be necessary regarding NCAA bylaws. As always, criminal justice proceedings, if any, take precedence over any NCAA actions."

When the allegations against Fine first became public Nov. 17, Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim adamantly defended his longtime assistant and attacked the accusers, saying he suspected they were trying get money.

"It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told," Boeheim told ESPN, referring to Davis. "You don't think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?"

Those comments prompted a swift backlash from victims' advocates, who were outraged by Boeheim's attitude.

Ten days later, his stance had changed considerably.

In a statement released Sunday night after Fine's firing, Boeheim expressed regret for his initial statements that might have been "insensitive to victims of abuse."

"What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found," Boeheim said in a statement released by the school. "I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

That apology did not appease all of his critics.

Richard Tollner, a member of the New York Coalition to Protect Children, said even if the investigation finds Boeheim didn't know anything before, during or after any abuses occurred, he should at least offer to quit.

"We think he should offer his resignation to the Syracuse University Board and let the board decide with a vote of confidence whether he should continue on or not," Tollner said. "Mr. Boeheim has a responsibility. He's a leader. Kids follow what Jim Boeheim says these days. In that light, he should have been more responsible in his remarks."

New York state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat who has passed legislation increasing the age from 23 to 28 time to bring a claim of sexual abuse, said if an investigation shows Boeheim was aware of the allegations against Fine and did nothing, he should be removed.

"But if he wasn't aware of it, and there was no way of him knowing about it, that's a different set of circumstances," Markey said.

On Tuesday, Fowler, the Syracuse police chief, said in a statement that all reports of sexual abuse now will be formally documented, and that he has ordered a review of all "police department policies and procedures regarding the documentation of sexual abuse allegations made over the phone and appropriate changes will be made accordingly."

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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