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Onondaga County DA: First two Bernie Fine accusers are credible

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick answers questions from the media

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick held a news conference in Syracuse Wednesday, where he announced that his office is ending its grand jury investigation into sexual abuse allegations against former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.

Note: Click 'Listen' above to hear Fitzpatrick's comments

While Onondaga County officials have ended their grand jury investigation, federal officials continue to investigate sexual abuse allegations against Fine.

During the news conference, Fitzpatrick said Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, the first two alleged victims are credible, but he cannot bring charges against Fine because the statute of limitations has expired. Davis and Lang say they were abused by Fine from the early 80s until the late 90s.

“The bottom line being is that in ’02, ’03, ’04,’05 and in 2011, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang would be judged to be credible,” said Fitzpatrick. “But for the obvious problem of the statute of limitations, their allegations would have resulted in the arrest of Bernie Fine, at least for the misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse in the 3rd degree.”

Fitzpatrick criticized the Syracuse Post-Standard for possessing an audio tape of Fine’s wife, Laurie, allegedly acknowledging that she was aware of her husband’s actions, but not turning that tape over to authroities. Fitzpatrick added that even if the newspaper had turned over the tape in 2003, he still would have been unable to prosecute due to the statute of limitations.

During the news conference, Fitzpatrick apologized to Davis.

“Bobby, I’m sorry it took so long,” said Fitzpatrick. “I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in 2002. More importantly, I wished I had met you as a prosecutor back in the 1980’s. We wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

While giving credibility to Davis and Lang, Fitzpatrick cast doubt on the accusations of Zach Tomaselli, who says Fine abused him in a Pittsburgh hotel in 2002. Tomaselli is currently facing charges that he sexually abused a 14 year old boy in Maine. Tomaselli has said that he will plead guilty to those charges.

Tomaselli has said that he took a team bus from Syracuse to Pittsburgh in 2002 and stayed in Fine’s hotel room, where he was sexually abused. Those allegations prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Secret Service to search Fine’s home and Syracuse University office.

Fitzpatrick said he will be turning over “exculpatory evidence” to Fine’s attorney, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Exculpatory evidence is evidence that would help the defendant.

Fitzpatrick says that evidence includes travel and hotel records from Syracuse University, as well as attendance records from the Copenhagen School District, where Thomaselli attended school, from the dates in question.

Fitzpatrick would not confirm whether those attendance records indicated that Tomaselli was in class and not with the Syracuse basketball team.

Recent media reports had indicated that there was a fourth victim claiming they had been abused by Fine. Fitzpatrick said that person is currently serving a life sentence in prison and is not credible.

“There is no fourth victim,” said Fitzpatrick.