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Syracuse police to change sex abuse reporting in wake of Fine case

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:49 AM EST, Wed November 30, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Ultimately, the head coach is responsible for everything," Boeheim says
  • Syracuse police chief says he will change policies on reporting sex abuse
  • Chief says the department filed no report on the 2002 claims against Bernie Fine
  • Neither the university nor media revealed the investigation or tape until this month, he says

Syracuse, New York (CNN) -- Policies that in 2002 allowed a report of possible sexual abuse of boys by a Syracuse University coach to go undocumented are being changed, the city police chief said Tuesday.

The detective assigned to take information on the matter in 2002 conducted no investigation and filed no formal report because the allegations were too old and no charges would have been possible, Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said.

"I was not the chief in 2002 and I cannot change the procedures in place at that time or the way this matter was then handled," Fowler said in a statement about the response to allegations against now-former assistant coach Bernie Fine. "But what I can and will do as chief today is ensure that, moving forward, all reports of sexual abuse are formally documented."

Fowler also said the department didn't know until this month about a 2005 university investigation into the allegations against Fine or a 2002 audio recording in which Fine's wife appears aware of the abuse allegations.

The school fired Fine on Sunday, less than a month after the university placed him on administrative leave after two men -- Bobby Davis and his stepbrother, Mike Lang -- accused him of molesting them over several years while they were growing up.

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Lang: 'I just hope that no other kids get abused'

The firing came hours after a third accuser came forward and media outlets made public a recording one of the accusers said he made with Fine's wife, Laurie Fine, that appeared to show she was aware of the abuse.

When the allegations surfaced, Fine -- married with a son and two daughters -- called them "patently false." Since then, he has not commented publicly.

Police in Syracuse and Pittsburgh are investigating the allegations and looking for other victims who may have been victimized, authorities said. The U.S. attorney's office in Syracuse and the U.S. Secret Service are also involved, according to police and prosecutors.

Review a timeline of the case

In Tuesday's statement, Fowler said the department would not identify Fine's initial accuser.

But he said police investigators learned of the allegations from Danielle Roach, a friend of the alleged victim, who has since publicly identified himself as Davis. Roach called police in 2002 to report the alleged abuse, followed weeks later by a call from the alleged victim, Fowler said.

But because the abuse had occurred at least 12 years before Roach and the alleged victim contacted police, and because investigators were unaware of any more recent victims, commanders decided against opening an investigation, Fowler said. And because there was no investigation, no formal reports were created, he said.

The police chief at the time, Dennis DuVall, was made aware of the allegations, Fowler said. DuVall is a former Syracuse basketball player who played before Fine was hired.

A woman who answered the door at DuVall's home said he was not home and told a reporter not to return.

Calls to Roach were not returned Tuesday.

In the wake of the scandal, Fowler said he has ordered a review of department policies into the handling of sexual abuse reports to ensure all such allegations are documented.

University officials did not return a telephone call Tuesday seeking comment on Fowler's statement that the department was not told until this month that the university had conducted its own investigation into the allegations in 2005. That investigation, the school has said, turned up no supporting evidence.

Fowler also said no one made the department aware of the existence of the audio recording Davis said he had made of a telephone conversation with Fine's wife, Laurie Fine.

The tape, made public Sunday by the Syracuse-based Post-Standard newspaper and ESPN, appears to show Laurie Fine knew about her husband's alleged sexual abuse.

Citing experts, ESPN said the tape contained a recording of the voice of Laurie Fine saying she knew "everything that went on" with her husband, and adding that "he thinks he's above the law."

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

Matt Govendo, Laurie Fine's nephew, said Monday that the voice on the tape is his aunt's, but the sections made public "are all tampered with."

Govendo also said that Davis 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. Telephone messages left with Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, who also has accused Bernie Fine of abuse, were not returned.

On Sunday, another man -- Zachary Tomaselli, now 23 -- said he was abused by Fine 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 alleged abuse happened about a decade ago, when he traveled by himself a few months after he'd met Fine, Tomaselli told CNN.

He said that the coach "put his hand down my shorts ... four or five times."

Tomaselli is facing sexual abuse allegations of his own. He is facing 11 charges, including gross sexual assault, in Maine involving alleged assaults against a 14-year-old in 2009 and 2010.

Tomaselli's father said his son's allegation against Fine is "100% false." He suggested that his son needs help and called him a "master manipulator." The father and son are estranged.

On Tuesday night, Syracuse University's men's undefeated basketball team trounced Eastern Michigan 84-48 in its first home game since Fine was fired.

After the game, head coach Jim Boeheim said he was saddened by events. "I'm looking forward to a time when we can talk and learn from what has happened," he told reporters. "There's an important investigation going on, which I fully support, and I can't add anything to that by speaking more about that now. The investigation, and all that we can learn from it, is what is important."

Asked about what may have happened on his watch, he said, "We don't know what happened on my watch right now. There's an investigation under way. There are no charges, there's no indictments, there's no grand jury, there's no action being taken. When that is done, then we will see what has happened on my watch."

Asked whether he considers himself responsible for anything that may have happened, he said, "Ultimately, the head coach is responsible for everything ... everything that I can control I hold myself responsible for."

CNN's Deborah Feyerick, Sheila Steffen and Ed Lavandera in Syracuse contributed to this report.

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