Police reports reveal details about credibility of accusers
Details regarding the Syracuse Police Department’s investigation into the allegations made against former associate men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine came to light on Sunday following a series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Post-Standard.
The police reports obtained through the FOIA requests revealed additional information about Floyd VanHooser’s allegations against Fine, the number of witnesses interviewed and the tense relationship between the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office and SPD.
Fine was fired from Syracuse University last November after Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, who are stepbrothers, accused Fine of molesting them while they were ball boys at SU.
VanHooser and another man, Zach Tomaselli, later came forward and also accused Fine of sexually abusing them.
Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors closed their investigation without charging Fine, saying there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.
SPD launched an investigation into the allegations against Fine the night Davis and Lang went public with their accusations on ESPN, The Post-Standard reported on Sunday.
The next day, SPD received eight to 12 phone calls from people saying they knew someone who might be a victim of Fine. But after detectives interviewed them, they all denied being abused, The Post-Standard reported.
During the investigation, VanHooser and Tomaselli were the only others to accuse Fine of sexually abusing them.
VanHooser, who is currently serving time in state prison, said the abuse started when he lived with Fine as a teenager and their sexual relationship continued into adulthood.
But 10 days after making the accusations, VanHooser recanted in a letter to Fine. VanHooser later told friends he panicked after the first interview and recanted because he viewed Fine, a long-time supporter, as his only chance at getting out of prison, The Post-Standard reported.
Police later found physical evidence that supported VanHooser’s accusations during a search of Fine’s home, The Post-Standard reported.
Tomaselli, who is currently serving time in prison in Maine on child-molestation charges, originally claimed that Fine molested him in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002. He later recanted this claim and admitted to doctoring emails and lying to reporters in order to prove his case.
Though VanHooser and Tomaselli were the only accusers to come forward, the police reports reveal that at least two witnesses discussed seeing “odd circumstances” at Fine’s home, The Post-Standard reported.
The reports also revealed that detectives and Secret Service agents interviewed SU head basketball coach Jim Boeheim and Fine’s wife, Laurie Fine. The contents of both reports are blacked out because federal prosecutors were involved, The Post-Standard reported.
The fact that federal prosecutors were even involved is a point of contention between SPD Chief Frank Fowler and Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, The Post-Standard reported.
After receiving phone calls from the DA’s office indicating the DA was planning to subpoena the accusers, in addition to other suspicious incidents, SPD became suspicious of the DA’s office and decided to turn the case over to federal prosecutors, The Post-Standard reported.
SPD also learned from VanHooser that Fine offered to contact First Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio, who VanHooser described as a friend of Fine’s, about helping his case, The Post-Standard reported.
In the article, Fitzpatrick denied that either he or Trunfio had a close relationship with Fine and that the DA’s office was out to disprove the victims. He also said no investigator ever told Davis or Lang not to trust the police.
Despite the disagreement about SPD’s decision to go to the federal prosecutor’s office, both Fitzpatrick and Fowler agree that some of Fine’s accusers are credible, The Post-Standard reported.
Fowler said in the article that he finds Davis, Lang and VanHooser “highly credible” and if the statute of limitations hadn’t expired, police would have been able to arrest Fine based on their allegations.
Fitzpatrick has said previously that he finds only Davis and Lang credible.
Published on December 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm