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Syracuse University fires basketball coach accused of molesting boys

Bernie Fine was fired Sunday by Syracuse University after a third man accused the assistant basketball coach of molesting him nine years ago.

Fine, 65, was in his 36th season and had the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one school among assistant coaches in Division I.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, told The Associated Press that he’d informed police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He said Fine touched him “multiple” times in that one incident.

He was the third accuser to come forward in the investigation of child molestation allegations against Fine.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he supported the university’s decision to fire his longtime assistant and expressed regret for his initial statements that might have been insensitive to victims of abuse.

“The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling,” Boeheim said in a statement released by the school. "I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged.”

Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine. He has called the allegations “patently false.”

Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, told AP that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that his father allowed him to go to a party and spend the night at Fine’s house after a Syracuse-Pitt game on Feb. 1, 2003. Tomaselli told AP that while he was there, Fine asked him to get into bed with him. He said Fine’s wife Laurie was there when it happened.

“I told them (police) that Laurie was standing right there when Bernie asked me to sleep in a bed. Laurie knew all about it,” he said.

Tomaselli’s father, however, says his son is lying.

Perhaps the most damaging allegation against Fine is from Bobby Davis. Now 39, Davis told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 when he was a ball boy and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27.

Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.

On Sunday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Laurie Fine.

Davis told ESPN he made the recording, which also has been given to Syracuse police, without her knowledge because he knew he needed proof for the police to believe his accusations. ESPN said it hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine.

Davis also acknowledged in an interview with ESPN that he and Laurie Fine had a sexual relationship when he was 18, and that he eventually told Bernie Fine about it.

“I thought he was going to kill me, but I had to tell him,” Davis said. “It didn’t faze him one bit.”

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 ...”

During the call, Davis tells her he asked her husband in the late 1990s for $5,000 to help pay off his student loans.

“When he gave you the money, what does he want for that?” she asked.

He tells her that Fine wanted to engage in sexual activity in several ways.

“... And I’d try to go away, and he’d put his arm on top of my chest. He goes, ‘If you want this money, you’ll stay right here,’” Davis said.

‘Right. Right,” she said. “He just has a nasty attitude, because he didn’t get his money, nor did he get what he wanted.”

When the accusations from Davis first became public Nov. 17, Boeheim adamantly defended his lifelong friend. In an interview that day with the Post-Standard, Boeheim attacked Davis’ reasons for going public with his accusations.

“The Penn State thing came out, and the kid behind this is trying to get money,” Boeheim said. “He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. … That’s what this is about – money.”

Fine was an integral part of the staff that guided Syracuse to the national championship in 2003. During his tenure the Orange also made two other appearances in the NCAA title game, losing in 1987 to Indiana and in 1996 to Kentucky.

He also guided the U.S. Maccabiah team to a silver medal at the 1993 World Maccabiah Games in Israel and has served as director of a successful basketball camp in the Northeast.

On Friday, federal authorities carried out a search at his Fine’s suburban Syracuse home but declined to comment on what they were looking for.

New York State Police spokesman Jack Keller said troopers were called to assist the U.S. attorney's office at the search. At least six police vehicles were parked on the street during the search, which lasted around nine hours. Officers carted away three file cabinets and a computer for further examination.

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