DA is OK not interviewing Fine

Posted: December 13, 2011

A NEW YORK district attorney said yesterday he hadn't interviewed a fired Syracuse 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 hourlong 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 that he found the men credible, but that too much time had passed for him or police to file charges.

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick reiterated a point he had made last week that a third accuser's allegations could be falling apart.

Zach 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 said 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 overall on Tomaselli's credibility because he's a witness in a federal case.

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 yesterday.

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 Tomaselli that would be helpful to the defense.

The statute of limitations expired 5 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.

Meanwhile, despite all of the distractions, Syracuse (10-0) has risen to the top of the latest AP poll. The Orange jumped from third to first after weekend losses by No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State.

Asked to explain his players' focus during this time, coach Jim Boeheim said: "Young kids constantly have different things going in their lives, school, relationships, how they are playing, a million things go through their minds. They have the ability to focus on things they have to do and they get it done. It's a great thing about kids, that older people tend to get caught up or get unfocused, get caught up more in outside influences and can't separate them. Kids aren't like that. They focus on what they control and go forward. It's a good thing about being young."

Noteworthy * 

Suspended Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates tearfully apologized for his role in an on-court brawl with No. 8 Xavier and said he is saddened that he's being called "a thug, a gangster" for punching players.

The Bearcats' four suspended players were told to attend a news conference and apologize for their actions during the closing seconds of a 76-53 loss to the Musketeers on Saturday at Xavier. The game was called with 9.4 seconds left when the brawl broke out. Xavier has suspended four of its players, including senior point guard Tu Holloway for one game.

Gates and two other Bearcats got six-game suspensions.

* Baylor remains the unanimous choice as the No. 1 team in the AP women's poll, receiving all 39 first-place votes.

* Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe pleaded guilty to violating a harassment restraining order. Mbakwe admitted sending a Facebook message to an ex-girlfriend last January. Attorney Laura Nolen said he thought the order expired after 1 year, but it actually was for 2 years.

* Former Chaminade assistant coach Mike Mathey, who resigned after sending a text message to a player containing a racial slur, apologized.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|