Federal prosecutors investigated sex abuse allegations against Bernie Fine
The U.S. attorney says there was insufficient evidence for charges to be brought
U.S. attorney says the closing of the case does not prove what did or didn't happen
Fine called allegations "patently false" when they first surfaced
Federal prosecutors’ decision not to file charges against Bernard “Bernie” Fine means that the former basketball coach may have escaped ever facing criminal charges stemming from sexual abuse allegations.
Fine lost his job as an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse under a cloud of suspicion. At one time, four people accused him of sexual abuse.
The university had investigated the allegations in 2005 and never sought criminal charges. Last year, the state of New York said it couldn’t seek criminal charges because the statute of limitations had passed. That left the federal case open, which came to a close Friday with the announcement that no criminal charges are coming.
The yearlong investigation revealed insufficient evidence to pursue federal charges, U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian said.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of New York has closed its investigation.
Syracuse ball boys Mike Lang and Bobby Davis, who are stepbrothers, had stepped forward to accuse the coach of molesting them over several years.
Another accuser, Zachary Tomaselli, said he had fabricated allegations against the coach.
William Fitzpatrick, district attorney for Onondaga County, New York, said last year that despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, he could not bring charges against Fine because the statute of limitations had expired.
A fourth accuser, prison inmate Floyd “David” VanHooser, also admitted to making up allegations against the coach.
When the allegations first surfaced, Fine – married with a son and two daughters – called them “patently false.”
The U.S. attorney said that in all, about 130 witnesses were interviewed and more than 100,000 pages of documents and records were examined during the federal investigation.
“We have concluded that the investigation has not developed sufficient credible evidence of the commission of a prosecutable offense to merit either federal charges or a referral to a district attorney’s office for state prosecution,” Hartunian said.
He added that the closing of the case does not prove what did or did not happen, only that there wasn’t enough evidence to take it to court.
Lang and Davis originally made their allegations in 2005 about events that occurred years before then. The university noted it had conducted an investigation in 2005 and was “unable to find any corroboration of the allegations.”
In November 2011, The Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper and ESPN both reported the existence of a recording of a 2002 phone conversation that they say Davis recorded between him and Laurie Fine, the coach’s wife. In the tape, a woman – whom ESPN, citing experts, claimed was Laurie Fine – said she knew “everything that went on” with her husband.
Bernie Fine was fired from his position as assistant basketball coach the same day as those reports.