Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Feds Wont Charge Former Syracuse Basketball Assistant Bernie Fine With Child Molestation, Which Is A Good Time To Remember How Badly ESPNs Mark Schwarz Screwed Up [UPDATED]

The U.S. attorney's office, which began conducting an investigation into allegations against Bernie Fine one year ago this month, announced this morning that it was closing that inquiry and filing no charges against Jim Boeheim's former longtime assistant, who had been fired in the wake of the allegations. We remind you that things could have turned out differently were it not for ESPN's Mark Schwarz still sat on credible evidence about Bernie Fine for eight years.* But more on that in a bit.


First, here's the Syracuse Post-Standard:

Prosecutors provided no details about the evidence, saying they're prohibited from disclosing such information in a case in which no one is being charged.

They wouldn't comment on whether they believed the accusers or found their stories to be fabrications. They also wouldn't comment on whether there was any evidence that Fine molested anyone.

Prosecutors said they're making a rare exception by publicly acknowledging that the investigation's over. That's because it became public knowledge when Secret Service agents and Syracuse police were seen executing a search warrant at the Fines' home last November, [executive U.S. assistant attorney John] Duncan said.


Fines' daughter, Sheila Fine, called a reporter and said the family had heard the news. "Nobody has s—- to say to you. How stupid do you feel now?"


Not that stupid, actually. None of this is really that surprising. Child sexual abuse is typically a state crime; the feds ordinarily only jump in under certain circumstances, such as if the accused and the victim crossed state lines. It's not clear what caused the feds to get involved; only one of Fine's four accusers, Zach Tomaselli, said publicly that Fine had abused him outside of New York state. Tomaselli, however, later admitted he lied and that he never even met Fine. Another accuser, prison inmate Floyd VanHooser, also acknowledged he made up his allegation.

That left Fine's initial two accusers, former Syracuse ballboy Bobby Davis and Davis's stepbrother, Mike Lang. The Onondaga County (N.Y.) District Attorney said last December that he had found their claims credible, but that the cases be couldn't prosecuted because the statute of limitations in New York state (five years after the victim's 18th birthday*) had expired. It's not known whether Davis or Lang alleged that Fine took them across state lines to abuse them. But according to a New York Times story from January, the feds were "continuing a criminal investigation into Tomaselli's accusations." Even though Tomaselli had already admitted he lied. Which means we're exactly where we were 10 months ago.

Which brings us back to ESPN's Schwarz. He knew about Davis's allegation as far back as 2003within also outside the statute of limitations*—when he was given an audio tape in which Fine's wife could be heard acknowledging something inappropriate had happened. But Schwarz—and ESPN—sat on that information until last year, when the network was getting its ass kicked by other news outlets on the Jerry Sandusky story. And while Schwarz didn't initially report Tomaselli's claim, he helped push what was a time-wasting false allegation by putting Tomaselli in touch with Davis.


Fine's wife, Laurie, is suing Schwarz and ESPN for libel.


* This story was corrected on Nov. 12, 2012, to reflect the following: 1) The statute of limitations in New York state for child-sex abuse cases takes effect when a victim turns 23; 2) When ESPN's Mark Schwarz got the tape in 2003, the case involving Bobby Davis was already beyond the statute of limitations.

[Syracuse Post-Standard]

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