By Pete Thamel (NY Times)
November 27, 2011
With clipboard in hand, the Syracuse associate head coach Bernie Fine was a continual presence at the side of Jim Boeheim as the Orange men's basketball program bloomed into a national power. But as the scope of molestation allegations against Fine grew over the weekend, the university decided to fire him.
Syracuse made the announcement Sunday night in the wake of news that a third accuser had spoken to the police and that a graphic taped telephone conversation between Fine's wife, Laurie, and another accuser had become public.
In a one-sentence news release, Syracuse's senior vice president for public affairs, Kevin Quinn, said that Fine's employment had been terminated, effective immediately. The university put Fine on administrative leave Nov. 17 after two accusers told ESPN that Fine had molested them.
Fine, 65, was in his 36th year as an assistant at Syracuse, his alma mater, and held the longest tenure of an assistant at one university in N.C.A.A. Division I. Fine has maintained his innocence through his lawyers, and Boeheim had vigorously defended Fine after the initial two allegations.
But Boeheim's stand changed on Sunday. "The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling," Boeheim said. "I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged."
In an article by The Syracuse Post-Standard on Sunday, Zach Tomaselli, 23, said that he met with Syracuse detectives last week and signed an affidavit saying that Fine had molested him in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002.
The newspaper reported that the allegation led to a search warrant that allowed federal officials to search Fine's home Friday. They took away three filing cabinets and a computer during a search that lasted several hours.
On Sunday, ESPN and The Post-Standard released a taped 2002 conversation between another of the accusers, Bobby Davis, and Fine's wife, in which she does not deny Davis's allegations of Fine molesting him. She also tells Davis that her husband "needs help" and "thinks he's above the law."
ESPN reported that Davis, who taped the conversation, told the network he had told Bernie Fine that he had had a sexual relationship with Laurie Fine when he was 18. "I thought he was going to kill me, but I had to tell him," Davis told ESPN. "It didn't faze him one bit."
Although Laurie Fine never explicitly says that her husband molested Davis, she appeared to acknowledge it in different ways.
She casually asked Davis, "You never had any oral sex with him?" Davis responded that he did not, but thought Bernie Fine wanted to. Laurie Fine responded: "Of course he would. Why wouldn't he?"
Laurie Fine denies on the tape that she had ever witnessed her husband molesting other boys. Asked if Davis was the only one her husband had "done that to," in an apparent reference to molesting other boys, she says "no" twice and later "I don't know."
She added in the tape: "Bernie is also in denial. I think that he did the things he did, but he's somehow through his own mental telepathy has erased them out of his mind."
Bernie Fine's lawyers released no additional comment Sunday. A Syracuse spokesman said the university did not have a copy of that tape during its internal investigation in 2005.
Tomaselli, the third accuser, is himself facing a sexual assault charge against a 14-year-old boy in Maine. Tomaselli's father, Fred, told multiple news media outlets that he did not believe his son's accusations that he traveled with Fine by bus to Pittsburgh and spent the night in Fine's hotel room for a game on Jan. 22, 2002.
Boeheim had denied the stories of the first two accusers and had spoken out vigorously against them, telling ESPN that the men's claims were "a bunch of a thousand lies" and that they went public for financial gain.
"I believe they are looking for money," Boeheim said at the time. "I believe they saw what happened at Penn State, and they are using ESPN to get money. That is what I believe."
Boeheim was criticized by victims' rights advocates for his comments. He later invoked the name of the former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who was fired after the former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing young boys.
Boeheim said Sunday that he regretted those statements.
"I believe the university took the appropriate step tonight," Boeheim said. "What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."