DA: Syracuse statute of limitations has passed

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - A county district attorney who has sharply criticized police and Syracuse University for their handling of sex-abuse allegations against an assistant basketball coach said Wednesday that he cannot bring charges but found that two men who accused him of sexual abuse are credible.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said his investigation into the claims against fired coach Bernie Fine started out to answer several questions, among them: Were the first two accusers, Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Michael Lang, being truthful?

“On almost every single criteria, Bobby Davis came out as a credible person,” the district attorney said. “Mike Lang also comes across as a credible person.”

Fitzpatrick said the statute of limitations on claims brought by Davis and Lang for abuses they said happened in the 1980s is long past, barring prosecution. Under the laws at the time, they would have had to make their claims to police within five years of the alleged abuse but Davis didn’t come forward until 2002 and Lang until this year.

On a third accuser, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli, Fitzpatrick said he has turned over school records and team travel records that may call into question Tomaselli’s claim that Fine abused him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel when the team played a road game there. He called the records “exculpatory,” which is evidence that helps the defense.

Fine’s lawyers say the records appear to prove Tomaselli lied.

Tomaselli is one of three men who accuse Fine of molesting them when they were boys. Tomaselli’s claims are the only ones among the three that are eligible for prosecution within the statute of limitations.

“It appears now that there is proof that Tomaselli fabricated this allegation,” Fine’s lawyers, Donald Martin and Karl Sleight, said in a joint statement, their first since early on in the three-week-old scandal. “The incredible damage that Tomaselli has inflicted on Mr. Fine cannot be overstated.”

Tomaselli’s phone rang unanswered Wednesday.

The 65-year-old Fine, who had been Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim’s top assistant since 1976, has adamantly denied wrongdoing. He was fired Nov. 27.

The accusations against Fine once appeared to threaten the job of Boeheim, who has said he was unaware of any abuses happening during his tenure.

Boeheim at first vehemently defended his longtime friend and assistant and said the accusations were lies to make money in the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. He later backtracked and said he was wrong to question the motives of the accusers.

Davis and Lang, both former ballboys for the team, have accused Fine of molesting them when they were boys. Fitzpatrick said allegations from Tomaselli, of Lewiston, Maine, don’t relate to Onondaga County.

Fitzpatrick said a 2005 probe by the university into Davis‘ claims was inadequate but said people should stop calling for the resignation of Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Boeheim.

Blame, he said, stops with one man: “Hasn’t Bernie Fine caused enough pain in this community?” Fitzpatrick said.

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