The Penn State abuse scandal has caused a spike in reports of child abuse, including charges against another high-profile college sports coach. About two weeks ago, two men accused Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them when they were children in the '80s and '90s. Today a third man came forward with similar charges, and within hours the university announced that Fine has been fired.
Previously, 39-year-old Bobby Davis said Fine molested him "hundreds of times" from when he was a ball boy in 1984 to when he was 27. His stepbrother, 45-year-old Mike Lang, says Fine started molesting him too when he was in fifth or sixth grade. Today a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli, told the Associated Press that he's met with police and signed an affidavit accusing Fine of molesting him about a decade ago when they were staying in a Pittsburgh hotel room during a Syracuse away game. Tomaselli says Fine put porn on the hotel room TV the, "put his hand down my shorts" multiple times during the night.
As if that wasn't enough, many other other sordid details came out today. First, Tomaselli is currently facing sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy. Plus, his own father is calling him a liar. Fred Tomaselli says his son never stayed in a hotel room with fine and has never been to Pittsburgh. He says the charges against Fine are "100% false" and his son is a "master manipulator." However, Tomaselli insists he's telling the truth and isn't trying to have his own child abuse charges dismissed in exchange for testimony. He says:
"It was the Sandusky stuff that came out that really made me think about it. A lot of people were slamming ESPN and Bobby for saying anything. I wanted to come out. ... It made me sick to see all that support for Fine at that point. I was positive he was guilty."
There's also been a new development regarded Davis, the man who initially accused Fine. Today ESPN played an audiotape of what he says is a conversation between himself and Bernie Fine's wife, Laurie Fine. While earlier today we discussed how someone could be married to a pedophile and not know it, if the tape is authentic, Laurie Fine knew all about her husband's crimes, and carried on her own sexual relationship with Davis after he turned 18. From the AP:
During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation.
"Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?" Davis asked.
"No ... I think there might have been others but it was geared to ... there was something about you," the woman on the tape said.
On the tape, she also says she knew "everything that went on."
"Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues. ... And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted ... "
On Friday federal authorities conducted a nine-hour search of Fine's home and seized several filing cabinets and a computer. When the investigation was opened earlier this month, Syracuse University put Fine on administrative leave, but today it announced, "Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately."
So far, it seems there's a huge difference in how Syracuse and Penn State officials responded to the abuse charges. When Davis went to police in 2003, they told him they couldn't act because the statute of limitations had passed. Two years later, when Davis told Syracuse officials that he was molested, they investigated the charges anyway, but failed to find any witnesses or other victims. When news of the allegations broke two weeks ago, Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor sent an eloquent email to the campus community and tonight she followed it up with this statement:
Dear Students, Faculty, & Staff:
Tonight, in the wake of troubling new allegations that emerged in the media today, I am writing to let you know that Bernie Fine's employment at the University has been terminated effective immediately.
Frankly, the events of the past week have shaken us all. The taped phone call that ESPN revealed today was not provided to the university by Mr. Davis during the 2005 investigation by our legal counsel. Like the media review of the case a few years earlier, no other witnesses came forward during the university investigation, and those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded.
Since I last wrote to you, we have been cooperating fully with the authorities. On Friday, November 18th, as the District Attorney has noted, we turned over to his office the results of our 2005 months-long investigation. Also on November 18, our Board of Trustees retained an independent law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to review our procedures in responding to the initial allegations when they first came to the University's attention. I fully supported that decision and it is vital that we examine our protocols and actions in dealing with such serious allegations. We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson.
All of us have the responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure that Syracuse University remains a safe place for every campus community member and everyone with whom we interact on a daily basis on campus or in the community as part of our learning, scholarship, or work. We do not tolerate abuse. If anything good comes out of this tragedy, it will be that this basic principle is reinforced.
She's right. The Sandusky case, and now the investigation of charges against Fine, seem to have struck a nerve like never before, but it's depressing that people need a reminder that abuse shouldn't be tolerated.