District attorney would have pursued charges against Bernie Fine

Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick said there was enough evidence to charge the former associate head coach when the accusers first revealed their story.

On Tuesday morning Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick spent almost an hour addressing members of the local and national media regarding his office’s investigation into sexual abuse allegations aimed at former Syracuse University associate head men’s basketball coach, Bernie Fine.

During the nearly hour-long press conference Fitzpatrick made it clear that he finds the accounts of both former ball boys Bobby Davis and his step-brother Mike Lang strong enough to support a prosecution, adding that due to the expired New York State statute of limitations, such a prosecution is no longer possible for his office.

Furthermore, he holds that while Syracuse University’s 2005 investigation into the allegations, carried out by retained counsel Bond, Schoeneck, and King was insufficient, but did not represent a cover-up on the part of the university.

“It was also clear that Bobby Davis had made several attempts to reveal his molestation; first to the Syracuse Police Department, second to the Syracuse Post-Standard, next to ESPN, and finally to Syracuse University,” Fitzpatrick said.

From the outset of his of the investigation, Fitzpatrick outlined three he sought to answer. The first inquired about the verity of Davis and Lang’s allegations.

“As a prosecutor you make judgments about credibility every day. It’s the essence of what we do,” Fitzpatrick said.

He went on to outline his office’s criteria for determining the credibility of alleged victims, a checklist that included the victim’s reporting the event and maintaining a consistent story with corroborating witnesses in addition to the existence of physically documented evidence.

Lastly, Fitzpatrick posed himself a question: “Do we as prosecutors believe the person to be credible?

“On almost every single criteria, Bobby Davis came out as a credible person.”

Fitzpatrick did acknowledge some faultiness regarding Mike Lang’s allegations, stating that “in assessing Mike Lang it is true that he had not reported these instances of abuse, to our knowledge, prior to 2011.” According to Fitzpatrick, Lang also avoided the 2005 university investigation.

When considering the other criteria however, Fitzpatrick finds Lang to be “a credible person whose allegations could ethically be presented in a court of law.”

In addition to the accusers, Fitzpatrick cited a Nov. 20 interview between his office and someone with personal insight regarding the Fine household that corroborated the alleged victims’ story. According to Fitzpatrick, this interview confirmed an inappropriate relationship between Bobby Davis and Bernie Fine. One that Fine’s wife Laurie was also well aware of.

Fitzpatrick accentuated his passion for the case in a public personal apology to Bobby Davis. Addressing the live-broadcasting YNN cameras as if they were Davis himself, he emphatically said, “Bobby, I’m sorry you took so long. I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in 2002, even more importantly I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in the 1980s. We wouldn’t be here today.”

Lang was also emotionally addressed in the second person as Fitzpatrick characterized him as a positive example for other currently silent victims. “Mike, it’s never too late to do the right thing and let it be known by everybody in people in this room, you did just that: the right thing.”

With remorse, Fitzpatrick again noted that the statute of limitations ensured that his office would not be able to prosecute Fine.

“I can’t bring Bernie Fine to justice for what he did to Bobby Davis and Mike Lang,” he said.

Fitzpatrick’s second question concerned the existence of both past and present victims. The investigation of the third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, has yielded a number of discrepancies between the alleged victim’s story and “exculpatory evidence” that the Fitzpatrick was legally obligated to hand over to Fine’s defense team.

He also refuted the New York Daily News report of a fourth victim, but has urged anyone with information about other potential victims to come forward.

His assessment of the 2005 University investigation carried out by Bond, Schoeneck, & King was especially damning, saying, “There was little, if any, intellectual curiosity exhibited in the report.” He went on to criticize a lack of follow-up, particularly in the 2005 investigation’s failure to interview a potential second victim in person.

He does not however, find the law firm’s long term employment by the university to be a conflict of interest, answering his third question as to whether or not there was a cover-up or “institutional breakdown” on the part of Syracuse University.

Fitzpatrick makes a clear distinction between the Fine scandal and the Sandusky controversy at Penn State wherein high-ranking University officials are alleged to have ignored reports of child molestation. “It’s hard for me to call a four-month investigation by a prestigious law firm a cover-up.” Until recently, there had been no such formal investigation at Penn State.

He specifically defended the integrity of Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor. “If she made a mistake it was trusting the report. From day one she has fully cooperated with my office,” he said.

Jim Boeheim has also come under fire amid early reports that he had seen Davis in Fine’s hotel room. Fitzpatrick clarified Davis’s version of this event as a one-time occurrence during which Boeheim saw “nothing untoward.” Despite substantial media pressure, Davis has not called for the firing of any present university employees.

Responding to questions about the future of the Syracuse community Fitzpatrick said, “We’re going to be fine.”

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