Timeline: Sex abuse accusations against Syracuse coach

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 07, 2011 4:58 PM
Timeline: Sex abuse accusations against Syracuse coach

(Reuters) - The following is a timeline of events in the allegations of sexual abuse involving Bernie Fine, Syracuse University's former assistant basketball coach.

Onondaga County, New York District Attorney William Fitzpatrick on Wednesday said Fine cannot be charged because the statute of limitations has run out.

1976: Bernie Fine is hired as an assistant men's basketball coach at Syracuse University.

1980s: Former ballboy Bobby Davis, now 39, alleges Fine began to touch him inappropriately in the mid-1980s, though Davis does not report it at the time and tells ESPN in a 2011 interview that he does not know the exact dates. A second ball boy, Mike Lang, now 45, also says he was abused multiple times until he was 19, but does not say when it started.

2000: Fine is promoted to associate head coach.

January 21, 2002: This is when a third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, alleges Fine touched him inappropriately in a Pittsburgh hotel room. Tomaselli, who was 13 at the time, tells Reuters that Fine arranged for him to be in the city that day while Syracuse played Pittsburgh. Tomaselli's father says his son is lying and the district attorney on Wednesday cast doubt on Tomaselli's story, saying he has evidence that would vindicate Fine. Tomaselli separately is himself charged with sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.

2002: Davis calls the Syracuse Police Department and tells investigators that Fine abused him "at least 12 years ago," according to Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler.

Detective Doug Fox tells Davis the state's statute of limitations may have expired in the case and asks for help identifying other possible victims. Fox informs Police Chief Dennis DuVal of the discussion but no formal report or investigation is made. DuVal is a former Syracuse University basketball player.

September 2002: After talking to police, Davis contacts the local Syracuse newspaper, The Post-Standard, and repeats accusations that Fine abused him. The paper investigates but asks Davis if he has additional evidence to support his claims.

October 8, 2002: Davis secretly records a phone call with Fine's wife, Laurie. During the call, which lasts more than 40 minutes, Laurie Fine appears to be aware her husband was engaged in inappropriate behavior. Fitzpatrick said on Wednesday that anyone who heard the tape would believe that Davis was telling the truth about Fine.

Davis provides an audiotape of the conversation to The Post-Standard but does not provide one to the police.

2003: After six-months of looking into Davis' claims, The Post-Standard decides not to publish the allegations, because editors do not feel they have enough to go on, according to an article the newspaper published last week.

June 2003: Davis contacts ESPN with his allegations and provides the tape recording of the conversation with Laurie Fine to them, too. ESPN does not air the tape at the time.

2005: Davis contacts Syracuse University with his allegations and the school does an internal investigation. Chancellor Nancy Cantor said in 2011 the school did not find any wrongdoing in 2005 but regrets it did not notify police. Prosecutors say head Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim is interviewed as part of the internal probe and is made aware of the accusations.

November 5, 2011: Longtime former assistant football coach at Penn State University, Jerry Sandusky, is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15 year period. The Penn State scandal startles the nation and raises awareness of child sex abuse. The scandal eventually leads to the dismissal of the university president and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.

November 17, 2011: Davis speaks again with Syracuse police and provides a copy of the tape-recorded call. That same day, after learning about the allegations, the university places Fine on administrative leave.

Fitzpatrick says this is when he first learns about the allegations against Fine.

November 18: Fitzpatrick phones Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and asks him to hand over investigation materials in the case.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim defends Fine, saying the accusers are lying and out for money. ESPN airs story mentioning the second accuser Lang.

November 23: Zach Tomaselli tells Syracuse police of his alleged 2002 encounter with Fine.

November 25: Federal agents begin searches of Fine's home and office, looking for pornographic materials and items detailing his relationships with young boys.

November 25: ESPN airs the tape recording of the phone call with Laurie Fine. Chancellor Cantor announces Fine has been fired. Boeheim supports the firing.

November 28: After several days of arguing with the district attorney's office, Syracuse police avoid a court battle and agree to hand over investigation materials to Fitzpatrick's office.

November 29: Cantor says "Coach Boeheim is our coach" when asked if there are plans to fire Boeheim. After a game that evening, Boeheim said he's not worried about losing his job.

December 2: After another game, Boeheim is more contrite, apologizing for calling the accusers liars and saying his initial comments were "insensitive." He says that he visited a facility that supports abused children and their families and will get more involved in advocating on the issue.

December 5: Tomaselli, facing his own child sex abuse charges in an unrelated case in Maine, tells Reuters he will plead guilty to the charges.

December 7, 2011: Fitzpatrick announces that no state charges will be brought against Fine because the state's statute of limitations on prosecuting child sex crimes has run out. But he says that investigators believe Davis and Lang are telling the truth. Fitzpatrick says he will hand over existing evidence to federal authorities and the next step in the investigation will be up to the U.S. attorney.

Sources: Onondaga District Attorney, Syracuse Police, Syracuse University, ESPN, The Post-Standard and Reuters.

(Compiled by Aman Ali, Edited by James B. Kelleher and Greg McCune)