Syracuse prosecutors to speak about sex abuse probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 06, 2011 5:54 PM
Syracuse prosecutors to speak about sex abuse probe

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Syracuse, New York are expected to make an announcement on Wednesday about the child sex abuse investigation of former Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine.

District Attorney William Fitzpatrick's office said on Tuesday that an announcement would be made Wednesday morning. The release did not provide details into what will be discussed and Fitzpatrick could not immediately be reached for comment.

The former Syracuse assistant basketball coach is accused of fondling ballboys, who helped the highly-ranked college team. Three men have accused Fine of sexually abusing them when they were juveniles. Fine has called the accusations against him "patently false in every aspect."

Fine's attorneys could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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 sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. The Penn State scandal led to the dismissal of the university president and legendary coach Joe Paterno for failure to tell police about the alleged abuse.

But no charges have been filed against the former Syracuse assistant coach, and the a grand jury was formed only last month. Earlier this week, investigators searched Fine's home and office for pornographic materials and items detailing his relationships with young boys.

The search warrants show agents seized from Fine nine cell phones, three iPads, three computers, several handheld electronics and more than 400 CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes. The warrant said agents were looking for, among other things, pornography "that could have been used to sexually arouse or groom young males to engage in sex acts."

The warrants also said agents were looking 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.

There is no evidence so far that head Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who has one of the best winning records in the nation and is a member of the basketball Hall of Fame, knew of the alleged abuse. Boeheim initially strongly defended Fine, with whom he has coached for some 40 years, but last week he apologized and said that his initial comments had been "insensitive."

The accusations are from former ballboys Bobby Davis, 39, and Davis's stepbrother Mike Lang, 45, when they were juveniles.

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 fondled him when he was 13 at a hotel in 2002.

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 Greg McCune)