November 27, 2011

The Smoking Gun in the Bernie Fine Affair (Updated x2: Fine Fired! Boeheim Speaks!)


I thought about naming this post “Weekend at Bernie’s: So Much Worse than the Original,” but it doesn’t appear to be a laughing matter anymore.  When ESPN broke the story about Bernie Fine, Associate Head Basketball Coach at Syracuse University, I hesitated to write about it.  After obsessing over the Uncle Jerry travesty at Penn State for two weeks, the cynical part of me wondered whether Fine’s original accusers, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, two former ball boys, were simply riding the coattails of publicity.  Unlike the Sandusky saga, there was not a laundry list of accusers and eye witnesses; these were two adult men who allegedly had their accusations investigated and dismissed back in 2005.  But now Bernie Fine has a third accuser.  And now, most damningly, his wife was recorded on tape confirming everyone’s greatest fears.  So I no longer think it is reckless or premature to judge accordingly. 

But let’s back up, because I think it is important to understand how this story evolved.  On November 17th, “Outside the Lines” ran an explosive piece accusing Bernie Fine of molesting Davis, now 39, and Lang, now 45.  Davis said that the abuse began in 1984, when he became a ball boy before seventh grade, and continued for six years; he alleged that the abuse occurred at Bernie’s house, Syracuse’s basketball buildings, hotels on road trips, and even at the 1987 Final Four.  He also claimed that Coach Jim Boeheim saw him in Bernie’s hotel room on multiple occasions.  Specifically, Davis said that Boeheim would come in, “kind of glance at me like, 'What are you doing here?' But he wouldn't say that. He'd just scowl. And I would look at him like, I'd be nervous. I felt embarrassed . . . and Boeheim's not stupid."  Davis apparently came forward as early as 2002, but no one would corroborate his accusations – until recently, when Lang did.  Lang happens to be Davis’s stepbrother. Davis says he went to the Syracuse police in 2003, but a detective told him that the statute of limitations – which, in New York, is five years from the last incident of sexual abuse – had expired.  Davis also went to ESPN in 2003, but at that time, without any evidence or witnesses, they did not run the story.  It was not until Lang, who said he was “inspired to talk” by the Sandusky saga, came forward that ESPN published what they had – which, at first, did not seem like very much.  

The response was fast and furious.  Coach Boeheim called it “a thousand lies” and vehemently came to Fine’s defense.  He said that “there is only one side to this story.  [Davis] is lying.”  He angrily declared:  "Why wouldn't he come to the police (first this time)? Why would he go to ESPN? What are people looking for here? I believe they are looking for money. I believe they saw what happened at Penn State and they are using ESPN to get money. That is what I believe. You want to put that on the air? Put that on the air."  Syracuse released a statement explaining that they were contacted by Davis in 2005 and “immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel.”  The investigation apparently lasted four months and “included a number of interviews with people the complainant said would support his claims. All of those identified by the complainant denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach.”  Bernie Fine also released a statement vigorously denying the charges as “patently false in every aspect.” Still, the school put him on paid administrative leave, while the Syracuse City Police reopened the case. 

Journalists, especially Jason Whitlock (who I respect for his candor), annihilated ESPN as “irresponsible” for releasing the story to “boost ratings.” Citing a complete lack of evidence other than “two vague, mumbling on-camera interviews from Fine’s accusers” and detailing the differences between the Sandusky case, Whitlock makes the interesting point that the World Wide Leader was simply protecting itself from a lawsuit.  He highlights the fact that ESPN, the Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse University, and the police had all looked into this from 2001 to 2005 and found no truth to the allegations.  And he harshly concludes that “[a]fter being embarrassingly slow to react to the legitimate Penn State story, ESPN decided to ‘own’ the Syracuse story by adopting what it believes is Deadspin’s standard for destroying a person’s reputation.”  At the time, I thought he made some excellent points; now, however, I can’t help but think that without ESPN’s bombshell piece, whether premature or not, Bernie Fine would simply be another child predator allowed to roam free while protected by a powerful academic institution.
The thing is, a lot has changed.  First of all, we have the pissing contest between the DA’s Office and the Syracuse Police Department.  From the beginning, the DA has claimed that his office was never told of the accusations and demanded that the Syracuse Police turn over its records.  The police strangely refused.  The DA was forced to seek a subpoena to obtain records from the police, which is extremely weird in the legal world and clearly infuriated District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick.  While the subpoena was granted, it is still unknown whether the police have complied with it.  Fitzpatrick became even angrier when the documents he had subpoenaed were leaked to The Post Standard.  Instead of contacting the DA, the police, with the mayor’s approval, went over his head and contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  In a press conference, Fitzpatrick blasted the police.  He called them “juvenile” and “scary,” and he even went as far as saying that he has “a chief that is intentionally trying to sabotage an investigation.”  He added that he has “never seen this happen in my history with the DA’s office.”  And he basically accused the police of trying to cover their asses from the investigation they conducted back in 2002.  It has been extremely hostile. And it is hard not to be intrigued by the dubious actions of the police.  Why won’t they voluntarily turn over the records to the DA, as they would in any other matter? Is this really just political shenanigans? Why did they go to the U.S. Attorney’s office first?  Any way you look at it, it is super bizarre. 

In terms of weirdness, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Because now a third accuser has come forward – under suspicious circumstances.  Zach Tomaselli, 23-years-old, claims that Fine molested him in 2002, when he was 13, in a Pittsburgh hotel the night before Syracuse played there.  Tomaselli may or may not be credible.  He, too, is facing sexual assault charges in Maine against a 14-year-old boy; he was a camp counselor who is now indicted for gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, unlawful sexual conduct and unlawful sexual touching.  His father has openly called him a liar and said that he has never met Fine.  That said, a witness has corroborated Tomaselli’s story and said that he first told her two years ago that he had been abused by Fine.  Is Tomaselli a sexual deviant because he was subjected to sexual abuse as a minor? Or is this just part of a fraudulent defense? The information he provided to the police, which apparently included details of the inside of Fine’s house, led to a search which lasted over seven hours and included officers from the U.S. Secret Service.  After the search was conducted, a Syracuse spokesman told ESPN that Jim Boeheim “is not commenting further on the subject at this time.” And it is probably good that he isn’t, because we haven’t even gotten to the most damning evidence to date against Bernie Fine. 
In fact, what I am about to explain is actually what prompted me to change my mind about Bernie.  To write about this horrible ordeal.  It is what made me go from hesitantly cautious – and perhaps even hopeful that it would all turn out to be false – to disgusted and judgmental.  It is the smoking gun.  And it is why, shortly following this primer on the Bernie Fine Affair, there will be another post solely dedicated to why women do what we do.  And by “do what we do,” I mean stand behind men we know, for a fact, are monsters.

Laurie Fine.
This morning, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired a tape-recorded telephone conversation between Bobby Davis and Laurie Fine, Bernie’s ever-faithful wife, which took place on October 8, 2002. ESPN has had a copy of the recording since 2003, but they just hired a voice-recognition expect to confirm its validity.  Please note that in New York, it is lawful to record any conversation if you are party to it, or if you have received consent from the other party; thus, by answering the phone, you consent to being recorded by the other person.  See NYPL § 250.00; People v. Lasher, 447 N.E.2d. 70 (N.Y. 1983).  Davis explained to ESPN that Laurie Fine “was there a lot of the times, and had seen a lot of the things that were going on when Bernie would down to the basement in his house at night.”  In the phone call, Mrs. Fine explicitly admits her husband’s fondness for little boys, her knowledge of it, and the extent of it - and in doing so, confirms our worst suspicions.  Compelling portions of the released conversation are posted below:

Laurie Fine: “I know everything that went on with him . . . Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues . . . And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted.”

Bobby Davis: I know. As much as I try to avoid it, I try to stay away from it. I think about it every day. I don’t know. There’s so much history there, you know.
Laurie Fine: Oh, I understand that.
Bobby Davis: You’re the only one who really knows, like, me and you.
Laurie Fine: I just think you’re going to set yourself up and what have you really got to gain from doing anything, from trying to confront him to talk to him?

Bobby Davis: That one time you told me you saw him, like when I was really young, you saw him through the basement window when you were taking the garbage out?
Laurie Fine: Right. I don't know. Is this bothersome to you?
Bobby Davis: Yeah it is. Lately it has been. It hit me hard. I really don’t know why.

Bobby Davis:  You don’t think he needs help? Or is it too late?
Laurie Fine:  I don’t know.
Bobby Davis:  That’s what I keep thinking: maybe ... I feel bad. All the stuff he did to me when I was younger, you know what I mean. (unintelligible) I tried to do something, he tried to grab me.
Laurie Fine: He doesn’t learn.
Bobby Davis:  Exactly. Like the last time at Manley, the last time I saw him, I told him it’s over...
Laurie Fine: No one’s with you, are they?
Bobby Davis:  No, no. I wouldn’t.
Laurie Fine: I know.
Bobby Davis:  When I called...
Laurie Fine:  (unintelligible) about peoples privacy and I…not that I think you're going to…Not that I think you’re gonna record anything I say, but I’m very cautious about what I say.
Bobby Davis:  The thing about Bernie, I called him a pedophile and all this, and he still goes to Manley and he still tries to grab me in his office. He shuts the door.

Laurie Fine: “Bernie is also in denial.  I think that he did the things he did, but he’s somehow, through his own mental telepathy, has erased them out of his mind.”

Laurie Fine: “I don't think he even acknowledges what happened. I think he did it and he might’ve been — I don’t know — in another…”
Bobby Davis (interrupting): “Do you think I’m the only one that he’s ever done that to?”
Laurie Fine: “No…I think there might have been others but it was geared to…there was something about you.” 
Bobby Davis: “Yeah, that’s what I’m wondering. Like I’m wondering why I was like the worst one.”
Laurie Fine: You know, Bobby, again…When he goes out of town, I don’t know anything. I don't think.. I’m involved with the kids. I don’t see anything else. I used to live, eat, sleep and drink basketball. Now, I am so the other end the last few years that I couldn’t tell you the recruits they have. Because I just don’t care.

Laurie Fine (asking about a $5,000 loan her husband had given to Davis to help with his student loans): “When he gave you the money, what does he want for that? He wants you to grab him or he wanted to do you?"
Bobby Davis: “He wanted to do me. He wanted me to touch him. He tried to make me touch him a couple of times. He’d grab my hand and then I’d pull away. Then he’d put me in your bed and then, you know, put me down. And I’d try to go away. Then he put his arm on top of my chest. He goes, If you want this money, you’ll stay right here. I’d try to leave and he’d grab me real hard. You know what he does — I told you about this before, right? He’d grab you if you tried to walk away and he’d say, I’ll pull it off or something like that.”
Laurie Fine: “Right, right . . . He just has a nasty attitude, because he didn't get his money, nor did he get what he wanted. He didn't get…”
Bobby Davis (interrupting): “It's not about the money."
Laurie Fine: "I know that. So you're…I'm just telling you for your own good, you're better off just staying away from him."

Laurie Fine: I said to him, um, ‘You know Bobby and I talked. I know some things about you that, if you keep pushing, are going to be let out.’ He didn’t even flinch.
Bobby Davis: I know, that’s what I’m saying.
Laurie Fine: He says, Let him go. Let him go ahead. Let him go right ahead.
Bobby Davis: He doesn’t think he could be (unintelligible).
Laurie Fine: I think he thinks he’s above the law.
Bobby Davis: I’ve always thought that, but especially after he came and grabbed me by the neck in front of everybody at Manley, you know, I’m like what the heck. And I tell him, ‘Bernie, if you don’t leave me alone, I’m gonna tell…you know, go talk to someone.’ He goes, ‘Do what you gotta do.’
Laurie Fine: That’s his line: “do what you gotta do.”

Laurie Fine:  When (our son) was little and you lived there, he’d say, ‘You better put (our son) to bed.’ I’d say, ‘He is in bed.’ ‘Well, you better go check him.’ And I’d go up to check him. I’d come down. He’d be out of the living room in the basement. He used to think of ways to get me out of the room. Like, I’m not an idiot, Bernie.
Bobby Davis: Exactly. When I stayed there in your basement, he’d come down there every night. I’m like, what the heck, what’s Laurie thinking?
Laurie Fine: What did I think? ... And then he’d come down to where you were every night. And he’d say to me, ‘Go check (our son).’ Or... Go lay with him. Go upstairs.’ Anything to get me out of the room. And I knew. I told you when I was walking down the stairs at night, I’d say to myself, Guaranteed he’s not in there. When I’d look in…he’d be gone. Right down the basement, door closed.
Bobby Davis: He did that every night.
Laurie Fine: You know what, go to a place where there’s gay boys. Find yourself a gay boy . . . Get your rocks off, and have it be over with. He needs that male companionship that I can’t give him.”
Bobby Davis:  You know how he’d always try to get me in the shower. You knew about that, right?
Laurie Fine: Yeah. I still have a graphic memory of that, thank you.
Bobby Davis:  Whenever you weren’t there…
Laurie Fine: He’d always say, ‘Bobby and I are going in the Jacuzzi.’ And I’d go to the bathroom and I’d try to come in. The door’d be locked. I’d check: ‘What's going on?’ ‘Nothing.’ I said, ‘Unlock the door.’ ‘No, we’re in our underwear.’
Bobby Davis: So, it’s not me, it’s him.
Laurie Fine: I understand that. You don’t have to explain to me.
Bobby Davis: I’m trying to convince myself.
Laurie Fine: Convince yourself. You did nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong, and you were a child, and he took advantage of that. And with Bernie there’s a price tag on everything. If he does for you, it’s like he records it in a book and you better do it for him.
I am starting to hope that Bernie Fine and Uncle Jerry share a cell together.  He deserves due process, of course, but I am not sure how – as an individual or an attorney – you can mitigate, or explain away, this recorded conversation.  I mean, this is his wife, his fucking wife, telling a young man that she knew he was being assaulted by her sex predator husband but that he shouldn’t have trusted him.  Not only does she attempt to justify his actions, she justifies his purposeful denial of them.  She even alludes to the fact that there may have been other victims. She straight-up says that she could not provide Bernie with the “male companionship” he needed. Um, gag.  You want male companionship?  Join a fucking bowling league, don’t fuck little boys.  I have a lot more to say about this, and in particular, Laurie Fine (and by default, Dottie Sandusky).  But like I mentioned, there will be another post dedicated to the women who stand behind their monster husbands, with a whole team of my favorite females chiming in.  Until then, I will just say this:  Syracuse better explain what it knew in the mid-2000s; the police better share its investigative materials; Mike Lang better explain why he waited this long to come forward and why he refused to corroborate Bobby Davis’s claims back in 2003 (the fact that Uncle Jerry “inspired him” is not good enough); and Syracuse University better handle this nightmare exponentially better than Penn State did.  If the allegations are true, it is absolutely shocking that such disgusting crimes could bring down two monumental athletic programs in one mind-numbing and bone-chilling November.

Update (7:58 p.m.): Syracuse just fired Bernie Fine amidst the allegations. (Hat tip to my very good friend RipleyinCT for alerting me on Twitter so quickly). I am beyond curious as to what Jim Boeheim will say.  Strangely, Coach Boeheim is my friend Jordan's uncle.  Small world, I know.  Also? This shit just got real.

Update (9:48 p.m.): Jim Boeheim released a statement on Facebook. In full, it reads:
The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling. I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged. I believe the university took the appropriate step tonight. What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse.
I applaud Syracuse for its extremely quick and un-Penn-State-like response. Although I questioned it on Twitter, the school apparently did not have access to the Laurie Fine tape during its 2005 investigation.  And I commend Jim Boeheim, but only because (after his angry and defensive quotes accusing the victims of being gold diggers), his statement was absolutely necessary if he wants to keep his job.  So I am glad that he released it as quickly as he did. We will eventually find out what he knew and when he knew it.  But until we learn otherwise, we cannot blame him for the actions of an alleged monster.  I assume that there is much more to be released in this saga.  Lots more on Laurie Fine and company coming, so please check back soon.  

4 comments:

  1. Nice connecting the dots, and you've laid out the "you betters" at the end perfectly. Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do!

    As to woman who protect monsters... don't leave out that theirs is merely the closest contact in a society that has protected monsters for eons (the article about Red Sox players who tried to keep bat boys away from their clubhouse trainer in Florida comes to mind). My hope is that the good that comes out of Catholic Church/Penn State/Syracuse is the recognition that there have always been male predators who hurt children, and that considering it merely distasteful and impossible to stop is no longer the norm. Now it is identification and immediate exposure by all, including wives who before now joined society in turning their gaze away.

    It will also be interesting what type of women monsters choose for wives. Pedophiles need primary prey and secondary enablers (wives and employers?), and are probably expert at finding both.

    Shameful on too many levels.

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  2. http://tinyurl.com/bw5awyl

    Fine Fired.

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  3. Ripley - thanks for the news so quickly. I must say that I am impressed by Syracuse's swift response.

    Sanfran - Really, really well-said. If only all people, men and women included, could be as insightful and empathetic as you always are. Except when it comes to the Yankees, but whatever.

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  4. Hey, whatever took place between the Mick and the Yankees bullpen under the bleachers was between consenting adults (well, at least of age) and I have nothing but empathy for the lot of them.

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