Overnight, London’s Evening Standard broke the story for UK readers that Syracuse University in New York fired assistant Basketball coach Bernie Fine. Fine was already suspended when the very first allegation was disclosed. The sacking happened when a second and third allegation was made in the present day. The Daily Mail filed a follow-up today discussing the fact that a recorded telephone conversation was filed with ESPN rather than the police and the sports broadcaster didn’t make it public for a further eight years, until its broadcast last Sunday 27th November. That report is here. His wife has denied the recording’s authenticity and labelled the first accuser Bobby Davis, a liar.
Unlike Penn State which has moved further on in the legal process, there are three allegations at the present time at Syracuse. The first of which from Mr Davis was examined six years ago by the college, and there was a short conversation with police rather than a formal disclosure on the record or a formal dismissal by the cops of the alleged victim’s word against Fine’s, and evidence “saved up” as ammunition for the right moment. This “right moment” has been judged to be after the Penn State case exploded. Fine hasn’t been arrested or charged (yet), so his termination, whilst a concrete move by the college, isn’t the end of the story by a long way. His superior Jim Boheim supported him when the allegations first broke but his agreement with Mrs Fine that the accusers were lying was retracted in a later statement. If everyone else hadn’t either jumped the gun or kept a long silence in this case, then the criticism levelled at Boeheim would be fully justified.
In short, male abuse victims haven’t been helped in any way by this circus. Even if Fine is guilty, First Amendment Justice through the media is wrong and will always be questioned as opposed to a legal case. Penn State’s handling is barely better, but with 40 legal charges there’s a greater chance of justice than for just three, none of which are on any police record and one of which is an allegation made by someone accused of child abuse in another state. It remains to be seen whether Fine will receive any further punishment than being fired.
If it turns out that Bobby Davis was actually told to get his own evidence in 2002, perhaps due to new laws passed that year about a longer-term statute of limitations, then that represents a failure of the police department as well, so it’s a good sign that Fine’s case has risen to Federal level with the Secret Service searching his home. We’ll bring you any further updates but right now, the start of this case should be a textbook study in how not to proceed when reporting legacy child sexual abuse.