Federal criminal charges will not be filed against former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernard "Bernie" Fine, who was accused of sexually abusing children, U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian announced Friday.
A yearlong investigation of Fine "revealed insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal charges," according to the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of New York. As a result, the office is closing its investigation, it said.
A New York State Supreme Court justice dismissed Friday a defamation lawsuit against Syracuse University and its longtime head basketball coach, Jim Boeheim.
The suit was filed in December by two former ball boys for the basketball team, who have accused Bernie Fine, a former assistant coach, of repeated sexual abuse when they were children.
Boeheim (pictured) initially supported Fine, a longtime friend and colleague, accusing Mike Lang and his stepbrother, Bobby Davis, of fabricating their accusations of Fine's alleged misconduct. The coach later apologized for his comments.
[Updated at 12:05 p.m. ET] A district attorney in central New York says that despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct against minors, he cannot bring charges against a former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach because the statute of limitations has expired.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick offered a personal apology to Bobby Davis, a former Syracuse ball boy who says he informed Syracuse police in 2002 that he was subjected to inappropriate sexual contact by Bernie Fine.
Davis, now 39, alleges the former coach touched him inappropriately beginning in 1984, before he entered seventh grade, and the abuse continued until he was 27.
Timeline of Bernie Fine case
Fitzpatrick said was forced to get a subpoena to compel Syracuse police to hand over records related to the case.
Mike Lang, a stepbrother of Davis, also accused Fine of inappropriately touching him at various locations, including university basketball facilities. Similar allegations made by Zach Tomaselli, 23, are still being investigated by federal authorities.
Fine has not been charged with a crime and has maintained his innocence, saying the allegations are "patently false in every aspect." Syracuse fired him last month after Davis reiterated his allegations in an interview with ESPN and Lang went public with his allegations.
The district attorney's announcement comes after federal agents searched the home and office of the former coach, looking for possible evidence of his alleged interactions with minors, according to unsealed court documents.
The investigation at Syracuse comes in the wake of a sex abuse scandal at Penn State University, in which former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing boys over a span of 14 years. Sandusky has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation – saying he only "horsed around" with the disadvantaged boys in his care – and is currently free on $100,000 bail.
Syracuse University has fired Bernie Fine as an assistant men's basketball coach, a school spokesman announced Sunday night, hours after new reports arose regarding his alleged sexual abuse of boys.
"At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," Kevin Quinn said in a statement, referring to Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor.
Fine was placed on administrative leave earlier this month, after former Syracuse ball boy Bobby Davis and his stepbrother, Mike Lang, accused him of molesting them.
Police opened an investigation on the matter on November 17, Syracuse police Sgt. Tom Connellan said.
The Syracuse-based Post-Standard newspaper and ESPN both reported Sunday the existence of a recording of a 2002 phone conversation that they said Davis had recorded between him and the coach's wife.
As Syracuse University became the third U.S. college whose workers have faced high-profile allegations of child sex abuse this month, child welfare advocates say the accounts may be triggering a surge in reports of juvenile sex abuse.
The “Stop it Now!” group, which guides people who are concerned that a child may have been sexually abused, says its contacts have risen 130% since a former Penn State assistant football coach was charged on allegations that he sexually abused eight boys. Anne Bale, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that after the charges, its child abuse reporting hot line received twice the number of calls it normally does for five days.
That’s not to say child sex abuse has been on an upward trend. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year reported that incidences of child sex abuse declined by 38% from 1993 to 2006. But Stop it Now! executive director Deborah Donovan Rice said the college stories may be helping victims come forward.
“One of the things that having this story be so public and high-profile is doing, it’s making it more acceptable to talk about this very difficult issue,” Rice said Friday.
The Syracuse allegations are the latest of three child sex abuse cases at U.S. colleges that have gained national attention this month. Syracuse put longtime associate men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine on leave Thursday after two former ball boys, now in their 30s and 40s, told ESPN that Fine molested them years ago. Fine, who has not been charged, denies the allegations.
In the Penn State case, former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused of 40 counts of sexually abusing boys over a period of more than 10 years, according to a grand jury's summary of testimony. Two Penn State officials stepped down after being charged with lying to the grand jury and failing to report the allegations of abuse to police. Longtime football coach Joe Paterno, who is not charged, was fired after reports that although he advised supervisors of allegations, he didn’t inform police.
In a third case a former cadet-turned-camp counselor at The Citadel military college in South Carolina was arrested last month on charges of molesting at least five children in alleged incidents in the Charleston area. Those cases weren’t linked to the Citadel, but the college this month revealed that in 2007, a former Citadel Summer Camp participant alleged that the man, his camp counselor, engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct.
The following is a roundup of some of the latest developments in these cases:
NCAA to examine Penn State’s handling of scandal
The NCAA says it will examine how Penn State University has handled its child sex abuse scandal.
"This unprecedented situation demands the NCAA evaluate the university's accountability" and the application of NCAA bylaws, said the group's president, Mark Emmert, in a letter to the university.
A Syracuse University assistant men's basketball coach who was placed on leave over allegations that he inappropriately touched two boys years ago said Friday the accusations "are patently false in every aspect."
Syracuse put associate Bernie Fine on leave Thursday after Syracuse city police said they were re-opening an investigation of the allegations made six years ago by former Syracuse ball boy Bobby Davis, 39.
That news came after both Davis and his stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a Syracuse ball boy, told ESPN on Thursday that Fine had molested them when they were children. Lang's new allegations helped kick-start the new police investigation.
"Simply put, these allegations are patently false in every aspect," Fine said Friday in a statement released by lawyers representing him. "The fact is these allegations have been thoroughly investigated multiple times.
"When evaluating the veracity of these accusations, please keep in mind that credible media outlets were approached in the past to publicize these false allegations and declined to do so. I fully cooperated with all past inquires."
Davis told university officials six years ago that he informed Syracuse city police that he had been "subjected to inappropriate contact by an associate men's basketball coach" during the 1980s and 1990s, Syracuse Senior Vice President Kevin C. Quinn said Thursday.
The university launched its own investigation in 2005, and found that no one, even people who Davis said would support his accusations, knew of wrongdoing by Fine, who denied the accusations. Police in 2005 said they wouldn't pursue the case because the statute of limitations had expired, Quinn said.
Had the school found evidence or corroboration of the allegations, it would have terminated the associate coach and reported the case to the police, Quinn said. Syracuse placed Fine on leave "in light of the new allegations and the Syracuse city police investigation," Quinn said.
Fine said in the statement: "Sadly, we live in an allegation-based society and an Internet age where in a matter of minutes one's lifelong reputation can be severely damaged. I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the latest review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously."
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