Agents looked for porn in search of Bernie Fine's properties

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2011 10:03 PM
Agents looked for porn in search of Bernie Fine's properties

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal agents searched the home and office of former Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine last month for pornographic materials and items detailing his relationships with young boys, court records showed.

A federal judge in Syracuse on Monday unsealed four search warrants executed on three days in late November related to Fine, the former Syracuse assistant basketball coach accused of fondling ball boys working with the highly ranked college team.

The search warrants showed that agents looking for items including pornography "that could have been used to sexually arouse or groom young males to engage in sex acts" had seized cell phones, iPads, computers, handheld electronics and more than 400 CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes.

Three men have accused Fine of sexually abusing them when they were juveniles, and a grand jury is looking into the allegations. Fine, who has not been charged with any crime, has called the accusations "patently false in every aspect."

Fine was fired after ESPN aired audio of what it said was a telephone call between Fine's wife Laurie and an alleged victim in which she appeared to admit knowledge of the alleged abuse.

The Syracuse allegations have been compared to the Penn State scandal, in which an assistant football coach was charged with abusing eight boys over 15 years. That scandal led to the dismissal of the university president and legendary coach Joe Paterno for failure to tell police about the alleged abuse.

In the Syracuse case, agents conducting searches had looked for all records detailing Fine's "present or past association, contact, and/or activities with minor males." That includes young boys that have stayed over at his home in the past, one warrant said.

Some of the records seized from Fine included bank statements, travel receipts, checks and several photos and film. Aside from searches at Fine's home and office, a warrant was also granted to search three of his safety deposit boxes at two banks where several documents were seized.

Officials at the U.S. Attorney's office could not be reached for comment to discuss what the seized items revealed. Fine's attorneys could also not be reached for comment.

A judge ordered the search warrants unsealed on Monday after several reporters petitioned for their release.

A grand jury is investigating accusations that Fine molested a former ball boy, Bobby Davis, 39, and Davis's stepbrother Mike Lang, 45, when they were juveniles. Lang has said in a CNN interview that Fine touched him inappropriately as a child at least 30-40 times.

There is no evidence so far that head Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim knew of the alleged abuse.

Police in Pittsburgh said they were also working with the U.S. Attorney's office in Northern New York regarding allegations by a third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, 23, who told Reuters Fine tried to fondle him and make him watch pornography at a hotel in 2002 when he was 13.

Federal authorities took the lead in the Fine investigation after questions were raised about how vigorously the Syracuse police pursued a tip nine years ago.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)