Chief: Bernie Fine accusers 'credible'

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The chief of police in Syracuse said that a year-long investigation by his department found that three men who accused former Orange assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them were "highly credible," according to a report in the Syracuse Post-Standard on Friday.

Chief Frank Fowler and deputy chief Shawn Broton said in an interview with the Post-Standard that detectives believed the accusations made by former Syracuse ballboys Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, as well as that of Floyd VanHooser.

Broton told the Post-Standard that if the allegations had been made within the state's statute of limitations, there was enough evidence to arrest Fine.

"In my opinion, probable cause would exist to file charges in all three cases," Broton said, according to the Post-Standard. He did not commit to saying Fine ultimately would have been charged.

Federal prosecutors closed their investigation two weeks ago without charging Fine, but declined to comment on whether they found the accusers credible or if they uncovered any evidence to support the allegations.

Davis and Lang, who are stepbrothers, made their accusations to ESPN's "Outside the Lines" in November 2011. They said the molestation occurred in the mid-1980s.

VanHooser is a prison inmate who told a mental health professional that he was sexually abused by Fine as a teenager and into adulthood. VanHooser's allegations were made years before Davis and Lang made theirs public; the mental health professional called police after seeing Davis and Lang make their accusations in the media. After telling detectives in a prison interview about his accusation, he recanted, but then returned to his original allegations, police reports said.

The Post-Standard said police cited the way VanHooser's accusations surfaced as one reason they believed him.

Fine, an assistant at Syracuse for 35 years, was fired by the university on Nov. 27, 2011.

Fine's lawyer, Karl Sleight, refused to comment to the Post-Standard.

Fine's wife, Laurie, has a lawsuit pending against ESPN for libel.

The Post-Standard said it will have more of the interview with Fowler and Broton in its Sunday edition.