Friday, March 29, 2013

Former Syracuse assistant suing ESPN for defamation

A former Syracuse assistant basketball coach has filed a defamation lawsuit against ESPN for reporting that he sexually abused two former ball boys.

Bernie Fine, who served as an assistant under Jim Boeheim for 35 years, was fired 10 days later after the claims were made. ESPN broke the news on Nov. 17, 2011.

However, a yearlong federal investigation into the accusations produced no charges against Fine.

Fine filed initial paperwork for the suit back in November in state Supreme Court, but it had gone previously unreported until the Associated Press broke the story on Thursday.

Fine intends to sue for defamation and is seeking undefined damages.
In the initial ESPN report, two former Syracuse ball boys, Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Michael Lang, came forward and accused the longtime assistant of fondling them when they were teens. Davis said the sexual contact continued for years.
ESPN said that Davis had come to them in 2003 but that his story couldn't be corroborated then. When Lang also came forward, the network decided to air the story. 
But the claims by Davis and Lang had happened too long ago to be prosecuted. Ten days later, a third man, 23-year-old Zachary Tomaselli, of Lewiston, Maine, went public with an accusation that Fine had molested him in 2002 in a hotel room when the team played in Pittsburgh. The same day, ESPN aired an audiotape in which Fine's wife, Laurie Fine, apparently acknowledged to Davis she knew about the molestation he alleged.
Fine has maintained his innocence since the allegations were first made.

Tomaselli was eventually sent to prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a young boy at a camp in 2010. Before he went to jail, he repeatedly lied and changed his story.

In November, federal authorities dropped their investigation, saying there was not enough evidence to support Tomaselli's claim.

The 67-year-old Fine has since been hired as a consultant for an Israeli basketball team.

On Thursday, the Orange upset top seed Indiana, 61-50, to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

Via Sports Illustrated

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