In letters (provided below) obtained by the Post-Standard, Floyd VanHooser, the prison inmate who accused Bernie Fine of sexually abusing him since 1969, has admitted to fabricating his story.
VanHooser is currently serving 16 years to life in prison for various burglary-related charges and claims that he made the allegations of sexual abuse because he was angry Fine did not pay for a lawyer to fight the charges. He believes his sentence would have been lighter had Fine helped. The first letter, addressed to no one in particular, begins "I am writing this of my own free will. I need to right a wrong." VanHooser was interviewed from prison on Friday and when asked "if his statement to police was true, VanHooser said only parts were. 'Some of it is and some of it isn't,' he said Friday. You're going to tell everyone how sorry I am?'" The second letter, addressed to Fine himself, is an apology and notes "I believe if you had got a good lawyer for me I would have done better than 16 to life or as I see it 16 to death."
VanHooser's allegations could not have been the basis for criminal charges because they were outside the statute of limitations. But federal prosecutors may have cited the accusations Nov. 25 when they applied to a judge for a warrant to search Fine's home, office and bank safe deposit box.
The applications and affidavits from federal agents have not been made public. In a letter to U.S. Magistrate Andrew Baxter seeking to keep those papers sealed, Clymer said disclosure "could jeopardize the safety of at least one of the sources of information in the affidavits."
Although it now seems tainted, if the warrant was executed in good faith (i.e. police had no reason to suspect that Vanhooser was lying) the evidence obtained during that search would probably be admissible at a trial, should that come to pass. Also, "[a] source has confirmed that information from at least one of Fine's other accusers, Tomaselli, was also used to obtain the search warrants." This would seem to satisfy other exceptions to the "fruit of the poisonous tree" rule in that it allows for evidence to be admitted if the evidence was obtained as a result of an independent, untainted source, or likely would have been discovered without the tainted source.
As has been noted, the statute of limitations has run on the sexual abuse charges but this may prove pertinent to any possible felony charges for taking minors across state lines for sex the Feds may be drawing up.
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