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Case dropped vs. ex-Orange assistant Fine

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Federal authorities dropped their investigation into one of the sexual abuse claims that cost a Syracuse assistant basketball coach his job and threatened the career of Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.

After an investigation of nearly a year, U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said Friday that there wasn't enough evidence to support a claim that Bernie Fine had molested a boy in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room.

"The nature and seriousness of these allegations, which involved conduct typically committed in private with individuals who are reluctant to come forward, warranted a thorough federal investigation," Hartunian said.

It wasn't clear whether Fine, 66, could get his job back.

His lawyers, Karl Sleight, Donald Martin and David Botsford, said in a statement they were not surprised: "The damage inflicted upon Bernie and his family is simply immeasurable. Bernie hopes and prays that the lesson learned and remembered is that a rush to judgment has irreversible consequences."

Two former Syracuse ball boys, Bobby Davis and Michael Lang, came forward Nov. 17 and accused the longtime assistant of fondling them when they were teens. But their claims happened too long ago to be prosecuted.

Then 10 days later Zachary Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, went public with an accusation that Fine had molested him in 2002 at a Pittsburgh hotel. The same day, ESPN aired an audiotape in which Fine's wife, Laurie, apparently acknowledged to Davis she knew about the molestation he alleged.

Fine, who denied the allegations, was fired Nov. 27, and the government began investigating Tomaselli's claim, the only one that fell within the statute of limitations.

Tomaselli was himself accused of sexually abusing a boy at a camp in 2010. He was convicted of sexual abuse and started a prison sentence in April.

Fine, who put his Syracuse home on the market in March, has been in Florida and was hired as a consultant for an Israeli team. Laurie Fine has sued ESPN, alleging defamation.

Case dropped vs. ex-Orange assistant Fine 11/09/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 9, 2012 8:21pm]
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