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    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    CNN - Syracuse basketball coach fired amid sex abuse investigation

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    Syracuse basketball coach fired amid sex abuse investigation


    Syracuse University has fired Bernie Fine as an assistant men's basketball coach, the school 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," university Senior Vice President 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. The university in announcing Fine's leave earlier this month noted it had conducted its own investigation in 2005 and was "unable to find any corroboration of the allegations."

    "The events of the past week have shaken us all," Cantor said in a statement Sunday. "No other witnesses came forward during the university investigation (in 2005), and those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded."

    Syracuse men's basketball head coach Jim Boeheim said in a statement Sunday night that he believed "the university took the appropriate step" in firing Fine, his assistant coach the past 35 years.

    "The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling. I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged," said Boeheim, who days earlier said Fine had his "full support." "I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

    The news of Fine's firing came the same day that the Syracuse-based Post-Standard newspaper and ESPN both reported the existence of a recording of a 2002 phone conversation that they said Davis had recorded between him and the coach's wife.

    What did Fine's wife know?

    Davis provided the recording to the Post-Standard soon after it was recorded, but the newspaper then declined to report on it because it couldn't find "witnesses, enough corroborating evidence or a second accuser."

    The wife, Laurie Fine, at the time suggested to the Post-Standard that Davis had taped her on multiple occasions and edited the recordings to make them appear more inflammatory.

    In the tape, a woman -- which ESPN, citing experts, claims was Laurie Fine -- said she knew "everything that went on" with her husband, adding that "he thinks he's above the law."

    "Bernie has issues ... and you trusted somebody you shouldn't," the woman said, speaking to Davis.

    The woman appears to acknowledge an inappropriate sexual relationship between Davis and Bernie Fine, saying, "It's just wrong and you were a kid." She also said that her husband should "find (himself) a gay boy, get your rocks off."

    Repeated calls by CNN to Laurie Fine were unanswered Sunday, and no one answered repeated knocks on the door of her house.

    Cantor, the Syracuse chancellor, said the school did not know of the recording during its 2005 investigation.

    Bernie Fine's attorneys, Donald Martin and Karl Sleight, released a statement Sunday -- hours before their client's firing was announced -- declining to comment on the reports.

    "Any comment from (Fine) would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims," the lawyers said. "Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities."

    The embattled coach appeared to be getting some support as evidenced by a sign outside his home that read: "We believe in your innocence Bernie. We love you!"

    On Friday, the Secret Service joined local law enforcement to search Fine's home, according to John Duncan, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in New York's northern district.

    File cabinets were among the items taken from the home after the search warrant was issued, though Duncan declined to discuss what authorities were looking for.

    Duncan noted that the Secret Service's duties include "investigations into crimes involving electronic transactions." The Secret Service did not comment Sunday on the probe.

    Davis, a former Syracuse ball boy who is now 39, told ESPN earlier this month that Fine molested him "hundreds of times" over the course of 16 years, starting from when he was in the fifth or sixth grade.

    He told university officials six years ago that he informed Syracuse police that he had been "subjected to inappropriate contact by an associate men's basketball coach" during the 1980s and 1990s, according to an earlier statement from Quinn, the school spokesman.

    Police had told Davis years ago that they would not pursue the case because the statute of limitations had expired, Quinn said in a statement.

    On Sunday, another man -- Zachary Tomaselli, now 23 -- told CNN that he also was abused by Fine while in a hotel room in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he'd gone to watch a Syracuse game.

    The incident happened about a decade ago, when he traveled by himself a few months after he'd met Fine, Tomaselli said.

    He claimed that the coach "put his hand down my shorts" as he was watching TV, adding Fine allegedly did so "four or five times."

    Tomaselli said that he agreed with Syracuse's decision to fire Fine, adding the school also owed an apology to the coach's alleged victims.

    The accuser's father, Fred Tomaselli, claimed that while he and his son had sat in "nose-bleed" seats during Syracuse games, they'd never met Fine. Moreover, he said the boy never stayed overnight in a hotel room with Fine, nor had he ever been brought to Pittsburgh or gone to a game there.

    The father said that Zachary Tomaselli's allegation is completely "100% false," suggesting that his son needed help and calling him a "master manipulator." The father and son are estranged.

    Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, has also accused Fine of sexual abuse. Lang told ESPN earlier this month that Fine molested him "15 to 20 times," and confirmed the abuse to CNN in a phone interview Sunday.

    While he said that he often found himself "pushing (Fine's) hand away," Lang said that his stepbrother suffered much more than he did.

    He described Bernie Fine as "like a father figure" to both he and Bobby Davis, noting the two then-teenagers attended Bernie's wedding to Laurie 26 years ago.

    Lang said his "hands started shaking" when he heard the apparent voice of Laurie Fine -- as broadcast this weekend on ESPN -- talking to his stepbrother about the alleged abuse.

    Thirty minutes after the story broke earlier this fall about former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing boys over a span of 14 years, Bobby Davis texted his stepbrother. Lang said the text read: "'This is what happened to me.'"

    Lang's accusation, made after the Sandusky scandal broke, kick-started the reopened police investigation November 17.

    Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick has harshly criticized Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and Deputy Chief Sean Broton over the handling of a 2002 probe of Fine that began with Davis' allegation.

    Fitzpatrick filed subpoenas for records in the 2002 and current investigations that he said he should readily have access to.

    A 1967 graduate of Syracuse, where he'd been a student manager for the basketball team, Fine rejoined the program nine years later as an assistant coach under Boeheim.

    Prior to his dismissal, he'd been with the Orange ever since -- the longest such streak for an assistant coach in Division I basketball, the school said.

    According to his official biography, which was taken down from Syracuse's website on Sunday night, Fine "has been a tremendous advocate for SU alumni who want to play professional basketball" and "an active member of the Syracuse community."

    Besides his wife, Laurie, he has a son and two daughters, the profile stated.

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