Bernie Fine Fired as Syracuse Assistant Basketball Coach After Taped Calls Revealed 

By Teri Thompson (NY Post)
November 27, 2011

A tape-recorded phone call in which Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine's wife appears to bolster the allegations of child sex abuse against her husband added another shock wave to the case Sunday, leading to the firing of Fine on Sunday night and eliciting comparisons to the coverup of child sex abuse allegations at Penn State.

In a statement released Sunday night, Nancy Cantor, the school's chancellor, said Fine has been "terminated effective immediately."

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported Sunday that it had been in possession of a tape since 2003 in which Laurie Fine appears to tell accuser Bobby Davis she feared her husband had sexually molested Davis in their home when Davis was a boy.

Even if the explosive tape does not end up in a courtroom, its contents have raised serious issues for the Fines and a host of others, including basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who had adamantly defended his assistant, saying Davis was simply "trying to get money," even as authorities combed through computer files, sworn affidavits alleging abuse and other evidence.

Sunday night, Boeheim released a statement of his own, saying, he "deeply regretted" those earlier comments.

"The allegations that have come forth [Sunday] are disturbing and deeply troubling," he said. "I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged. I believe the university took the appropriate step."

Davis went to Syracuse police in 2002 with his allegations, but police did not launch an investigation then, citing statute of limitations issues. In 2005, Davis notified university officials of the alleged abuse, and officials conducted a four-month investigation but found no wrongdoing.

According to Cantor, the taped phone call was not provided to the school at that time.

After the scandal involving Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky broke, Davis talked with Syracuse police again, and an investigation was launched.

Syracuse has vowed to get to the bottom of the sordid claims. "In light of new developments, we'd like to reassure you that SU is committed to getting to the truth in the Bernie Fine situation," Syracuse said on its official Twitter account.

"I know everything that went on, you know," Laurie Fine said on the call. "I know everything that went on with him... Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues... And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted."

Davis legally recorded the Oct. 8, 2002, phone call to Laurie Fine.

In a statement released Sunday, Fine's attorneys Donald Martin and Karl Sleight said the coach would not comment "beyond his initial statement. Any comment from him would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims."

The tape was also given to The Syracuse Post-Standard in 2002, although it did not publish its contents because it could not corroborate Davis' account.

The paper said two reporters attempted to interview Laurie Fine at her home on Feb. 10, 2003. She acknowledged she had the conversation with Davis and confirmed portions of the tape as accurate while saying other statements were false. Laurie Fine suggested that Davis had taped her on multiple occasions and edited the recordings to create a phony tape, The Post-Standard said.

The newspaper also reported that another alleged victim has come forward.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, told Syracuse police on Wednesday that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room when Tomaselli was 13.

Tomaselli, who signed an affidavit saying Fine abused him the night before a game against Pittsburgh, is himself facing sexual assault charges. No one witnessed the alleged abuse by Fine, Tomaselli said, and he does not have any physical evidence to back up his allegations. Tomaselli's father disputed his son's account, denying he ever met Fine or let his son go to Pittsburghin 2002. He said his son did not go to a party at Fine's house in 2003.

Lewiston police arrested Tomaselli in April on an indictment warrant that charged him with gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, five counts of visual sexual aggression against a child and unlawful sexual touching involving a 14-year-old boy who attended a camp where Tomaselli worked as a counselor. He has pleaded not guilty.

Zach Tomaselli, who apparently discussed his allegations with Davis before contacting police, said he is estranged from his father. Meanwhile, Fine's wife's words reverberated around the country Sunday morning. ESPN said that it hired a voice-recognition expert to verify that it was Laurie Fineon the tape, which also reveals that Laurie Fine had sex with Davis, too, although Davis told "Outside the Lines" the sex occurred when he was 18, which would make it legally consensual sex.

On the tape, Davis repeatedly asked Laurie Fine about what she knew of the alleged molestation.

"Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?" Davis asked.

"No... I think there might have been others, but it was geared to... there was something about you," Laurie Fine said.

"Yeah, that's what I'm wondering," Davis said. "Like I'm wondering why I was like the worst one."

"I don't know," Fine said.

Laurie Fine said she felt powerless to stop the abuse.

"If it was another girl, like I told you, it would be easy to step in because you know what you're up against," she said.

"[When] it's another guy, you can't compete with that. It's just wrong, and you were a kid. You're a man now, but you were a kid then."

Bernie Fine, who had been Boeheim's assistant for 35 years, was vehemently defended by Boeheim when first asked about Davis' allegations.

"The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money," Boeheim said.

In the tape played on ESPN, Davis and Laurie Fine discuss Davis asking Bernie Fine for $5,000, when he was about 27, allegedly to help pay off student loans.

"When he gave you the money, what does he want for that? He wants you to grab him or he wanted to do you?" Laurie Fine asked.

"He wanted to do me. He wanted me to touch him, too. He tried to make me touch him a couple of times. He'd grab my hand, and then I'd pull away, and then he'd put me in your bed, and then you know, put me down, and I'd try to go away, and he'd put his arm on top of my chest. He goes, 'If you want this money, you'll stay right here,'" Davis said.

"Right. Right," Laurie Fine said. "He just has a nasty attitude, because he didn't get his money, nor did he get what he wanted. He didn't get..."

Davis interrupted her at that point and said, "It's not about the money."

"It's about the d---. I know that," Laurie Fine replied. "So you're — I'm just telling you for your own good, you're better off just staying away from him."