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Former Syracuse coach to face 2nd sex abuse investigation

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:03 PM EST, Mon November 28, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pittsburgh police to investigate allegations of abuse
  • NEW: Three accusers have stepped forward
  • Bernie Fine's wife will make a statement challenging a tape recording, her nephew says
  • Syracuse fired Fine on Sunday after the tape became public

Syracuse, New York (CNN) -- Former Syracuse coach Bernie Fine will face a second investigation stemming from his alleged sexual abuse of boys.

Police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said on Monday they will investigate Fine, who was fired from his job as an assistant men's basketball coach, once they receive relevant information from their counterparts in Syracuse.

One of his alleged victims filed an affidavit with Syracuse police, Pittsburgh police said, accusing Fine of molesting him in a Pittsburgh hotel room.

Fine already faced an investigation in Syracuse, where the U.S. attorney's office and the U.S. Secret Service are taking the lead, according to a Monday statement from Syracuse police.

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The Secret Service is providing expertise related to electronic communications gathered in the investigation, said 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 Fine's home after authorities executed a search warrant there last week. Duncan declined to discuss what authorities were looking for.

Also Monday, the nephew of Fine's wife said she will make a statement Tuesday challenging the implications of a tape recording of a 2002 telephone conversation with one of her husband's accusers that appears to show she knew of the alleged sexual abuse.

"She'll even say that's her voice," nephew Matt Govendo said, but that the sections of the tape -- excerpts of which were made public Sunday by the Syracuse-based Post-Standard newspaper and ESPN -- "are all tampered with."

The university fired Fine from his job Sunday night, hours after the Post-Standard and ESPN reported on the phone conversation, which they said former Syracuse ball boy Bobby Davis had recorded between him and the coach's wife.

In the tape, a woman that ESPN, citing experts, identified as 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."

Govendo told CNN on Monday that Davis had threatened his aunt with the release of 200 minutes of audio recordings because the Fines had cut off support to him "after 15 years of leaching off them, eating their food, living there."

CNN could not locate Davis for comment Monday and it did not appear that he had an attorney. Multiple telephone messages left with Davis' stepbrother Mike Lang, who also has accused Bernie Fine of abuse, were not returned Monday.

In a statement announcing Fine's termination on Sunday, university officials said they were "shaken" by the allegations. Chancellor Nancy Cantor said the school did not know of the recording during a 2005 investigation of Davis' accusations.

"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," she said.

Fine had been placed on administrative leave earlier this month, after Davis and Lang accused him of molesting them. In announcing Fine's leave earlier this month, the school noted it had conducted its own investigation in 2005 and was "unable to find any corroboration of the allegations."

Syracuse men's basketball head coach Jim Boeheim said Sunday 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."

What did Fine's wife know?

According to a transcript of the conversation on the Post-Standard's website, Davis and Laurie Fine talked about how Bernie Fine was angry at Davis for not repaying him $4,000. Davis said that the coach forced him to "grab him" after offering the loan, including at one point saying, "If you want this money, you'll stay right here."

Laurie Fine appears to side with Davis, and against her husband, saying: "Money isn't the issue here. He lured you with the money. See, he knew full well what he was doing."

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."

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.

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

Govendo said no one is taking the allegations lightly, but that the the family does not believe them. He says they feel betrayed by Davis and Lang.

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!"

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 university spokesman Kevin C. Quinn.

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, where he'd gone to watch a Syracuse game.

That alleged incident prompted Pittsburgh police to launch the second investigation.

The abuse 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," adding Fine allegedly did so "four or five times."

On Monday, Tomaselli spoke to CNN again about the alleged abuse.

"I did jerk away a little bit initially, but he (Fine) just said, 'It's OK, it's OK,'" Tomaselli said.

Tomaselli himself is facing gross sexual assault charges related to a 2009 incident, according to information from the Maine State Bureau of Investigation.

His 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.

Lang, 45, who also accused Fine of sexual abuse, 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 him 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.

Syracuse police said Monday they will turn over the information requested by the Onondaga County district attorney's office on Tuesday, but the records are quite limited, said Sgt. Tom Connellan.

"There was no investigation in 2002," he said. According to Connellan, Davis called Syracuse police from Utah, claiming he had been abused by Bernie Fine and asking whether Fine could be prosecuted. Davis was told the statue of limitations had passed and nothing else could be done unless he knew of any ongoing or more recent allegations, as is common practice, Connellan said.

Davis never took police up on their offer to meet in person and did not follow up on his initial call, said Connellan. He also said police were not aware of the conversation allegedly recorded between Davis and the coach's wife until it was released by the media. Davis' call to police was allegedly made before that recorded conversation took place.

"Could we have done more? We can talk about that," said Connellan.

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.

CNN's Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt in New York, and Deborah Feyerick and Sheila Steffen in Syracuse contributed to this report.

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