Monday, December 12, 2011
Bernie Fine was not interviewed by DA
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A New York district attorney said Monday he hadn't interviewed a fired Syracuse University assistant basketball coach accused of sexual abuse or his wife because of an ongoing federal investigation.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick made the comment during an hour-long online chat with readers of the Syracuse Post-Standard about his review of allegations against former coach Bernie Fine. He didn't respond to email and phone messages from The Associated Press seeking more details about his decision not to question Fine or his wife, Laurie.
Two former Syracuse ball boys, Bobby Davis and stepbrother Michael Lang, say they were molested by Fine in the 1980s. Fitzpatrick said last week he found the men credible, but that too much time had passed for him or police to file charges.
Fine has denied any wrongdoing. He was fired Nov. 27 after a third man said he'd been abused and ESPN released a recording of a 2002 phone call in which a woman ESPN identified as Laurie Fine tells Davis she knew "everything that went on."
Fitzpatrick, who said the authenticity of the tape is being tested by federal authorities, also defended his decision to publicly support Davis and Lang last week.
"To stand by and not support two victims of sexual abuse would have been derelict on my part," Fitzpatrick said. "I felt that they had been vilified from a number of sources regarding their credibility, and I needed to create an atmosphere of support so that other victims could come forward."
The U.S. attorney's office is investigating Fine and has seized computers, cameras, phones and records during searches of Fine's office and home. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Duncan, in Syracuse, said he couldn't comment Monday.
Fitzpatrick said at a news conference last week that he believes Davis and Lang are credible but that his office can't pursue charges because the statute of limitations has passed. He also said he was giving Fine's lawyers material regarding the third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, that would be helpful to the defense.
Tomaselli, of Lewiston, Maine, said he was abused by Fine in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002 during a road trip by the Syracuse basketball team.
Fitzpatrick repeated Monday that public school and travel records may undercut Tomaselli's account. He said there was no evidence that a "support bus" described by Tomaselli left Syracuse for the game in Pittsburgh, but the prosecutor would not comment on Tomaselli's credibility because he's a witness in a federal case.
In response to the prosecutor's remarks last week, Tomaselli's lawyer filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania against Fine.
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, allows a victim to bring charges until he is 25. Tomaselli is 23.
Fitzpatrick also said the county had a longstanding policy of not administering lie-detector tests to sexual abuse victims and he would not make an exception in this case. He said the tests compound the victimization of people who often haven't been believed when they previously complained of abuse.