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DA: Bernie Fine accusers credible; statute of limitations expired

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:32 PM EST, Wed December 7, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Fine's attorneys lash out at one individual making allegations
  • A district attorney says the allegations of sexual misconduct against Bernie Fine are credible
  • But he says he cannot prosecute because the statute of limitations has expired
  • Federal authorities have longer statute of limitations, CNN legal analyst says

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New York district attorney said Wednesday that despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, he cannot bring charges against a former assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University because the statute of limitations has expired.

But that does not mean Bernie Fine may not face charges. Federal authorities are investigating allegations made in one case.

Onondaga County, New York, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick offered a personal apology to Bobby Davis, who says he informed Syracuse police in 2002 that he was subjected to inappropriate sexual contact by 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.

Bernie Fine accusers 'credible'

Fitzpatrick said he 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 Zachary 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."

Tomaselli has said he and Fine watched pornography together before Fine fondled him in a hotel room in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he'd gone to watch a Syracuse game in 2002.

Fitzpatrick told reporters he handed over "exculpatory" records on the team's travel and accommodations to Fine's attorneys. He also handed over information on Tomaselli's school attendance. He declined to say whether he found Tomaselli credible.

Exculpatory material tends to either indicate the accuser was not telling the truth or is beneficial to the defense, Fitzpatrick said.

Fine's attorneys, Donald Martin and Karl Sleight, said Wednesday they looked forward to reviewing material from Fitzpatrick.

"It appears now that there is proof that Tomaselli fabricated this allegation," they said in a statement. "The incredible damage that Tomaselli has inflicted on Mr. Fine cannot be overstated."

"We are hopeful that federal authorities will soon come to the same conclusion regarding Tomaselli's lack of credibility," they said.

Tomaselli could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

Tomaselli, 23, told CNN on Monday he will plead guilty to charges that he sexually abused a teenage boy.

He is facing 11 charges, including gross sexual assault, in Maine involving alleged assaults against a then 13- and 14-year-old in 2009 and 2010.

The district attorney's announcement Wednesday 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.

Investigators were instructed to search for "pornographic materials, in any format, including digital or electronic form, that could have been used to sexually arouse or groom young males to engage in sex acts," according to documents signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Baxter.

The agents seized cell phones, iPads, computers, cameras and more than 100 CDs and DVDs, according to the search warrants, which were among the documents unsealed Monday. Fine's home was searched November 25, and his office November 29, according to the documents.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said federal authorities have a longer statute of limitations in such cases. Investigators may be looking into any allegations that might include interstate travel to commit a crime, he said.

It's difficult, however, to prove older cases, Toobin said.

Fine, who served as an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University for 35 years, was fired last month over the allegations that he sexually abused boys.

Police in Syracuse and Pittsburgh are investigating the allegations and looking for other potential victims, authorities have said.

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. A grand jury report, made public last month, detailed 40 charges against Sandusky involving at least eight alleged victims.

The longtime Penn State defensive coordinator 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.

CNN's Ronni Berke contributed to this report.

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