- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2012

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - A prison inmate who was one of four men to accuse a former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach of sexual abuse when they were children has admitted that he made up his claim.

The accuser, Floyd VanHooser, wrote in a letter that he lied to police and in December interviews with The Associated Press and The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse. He said he wanted to get back at the coach, Bernie Fine, because Fine did not hire a lawyer to help VanHooser fight a criminal conviction.

Fine had helped raise the 56-year-old VanHooser after his parents died.

Two other men, former Syracuse ball boys in the 1980s, accused Fine late last year of abusing them as children, but the statute of limitations has expired. Fine was fired Nov. 27 after they came forward, ending his 35-plus years as an assistant at Syracuse.

Fine, 66, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. Fine’s attorney, Karl Sleight, declined to comment on Sunday. A federal investigation is ongoing.

Another man has also accused Fine, though a prosecutor has said that there is evidence that undercuts that claim.

VanHooser told The Associated Press last month that Fine began sexually abusing him when VanHooser was 14 years old. He said the abuse continued as an adult, when the contact included sex acts for money.

VanHooser said both his parents died by the time he was 13 and he moved in with Fine at 14. Though he began running away after six months, VanHooser said he saw Fine on and off for nearly 40 years.

VanHooser said Friday in a prison interview with the newspaper that it’s true that he and Fine had a sexual relationship as adults for many years, and it continued until last summer. He said Fine first approached him for sex when he was in his 30s. VanHooser said he was usually high on heroin when they had sex.

On Thursday, The Post-Standard received copies of two letters dated Nov. 29 that VanHooser wrote and mailed to Fine. One letter is addressed to Fine and the other “to whom it may concern.”

“In a statement I gave, I told a lot of lies about Bernie Fine. None of what I said was true,” VanHooser wrote. “Bernie has been nothing but good to me over the years. He was the only thing I had close to a father. He never did anything wrong. He is a good man.”

VanHooser confirmed Friday that he wrote the letters and did so without being asked. When asked if his statements to police were true, VanHooser said only parts were.

When Syracuse police detectives questioned him about Fine’s relationship with him as a child, VanHooser said he did not offer specifics.

“They suggested things and I went along with it,” VanHooser told the newspaper.

The moment the detectives walked out of the room, VanHooser said, he regretted saying Fine had abused him.

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