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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — New York state must lengthen the statute of limitations to bring charges of child sex abuse, a victims’ advocate said in response to a prosecutor’s statement that it’s too late to investigate two men’s claims that they were molested by former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are “denied basic legal rights,” said the Rev. Robert Hoatson of the advocacy group Road to Recovery.
“If there ever was a case that screamed ‘injustice,’ it is this one, since it glaringly displays the further damage that antiquated laws can inflict on victims,” Hoatson said in a statement.
Two men say Fine abused them when they were boys in the 1980s. The statute of limitations expired five years after the alleged abuse occurred. On Wednesday, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he believed Fine abused the men but said he could not bring state charges.
“Statutes of limitations promote silence rather than speaking out, and statutes force victims to live with the effects of their abuse with the knowledge that nothing can be done about them,” Hoatson said.
A third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, sued Fine on Thursday in Pittsburgh for abuse he says happened in 2002 when the team played a road game there.
The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating. The federal statute of limitations in place in 2002, when Tomaselli says he was abused by Fine in a hotel room, allowed a victim to bring charges until he was 25; Tomaselli is 23.
Fine, who was fired, has denied the claims. And Fitzpatrick has said school and travel records may undercut Tomaselli’s account.
Fitzpatrick lashed out at Fine and added other names to the list of what he says are victims: Fine’s longtime friend, Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim, the university and the city.
“Hasn’t Bernie Fine caused enough pain in this community?” Fitzpatrick said.
Davis went to the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper in 2002 and ESPN in 2003; neither media outlet could corroborate his claims. He went to the police, too, in 2002, and a detective told him the statute of limitations had expired. Three years later, he went to the university; Syracuse had its lawyers do an internal investigation and says it, too, couldn’t verify Davis’ accusations.
Then, on Nov. 17, with the country still caught up in the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, where a former assistant football coach is accused of molesting 10 boys, Davis came forward on ESPN. Then Lang came forward. Ten days later, Tomaselli spoke out. That day, Nov. 27, ESPN aired a tape in which a woman it identified as Fine’s wife tells Davis she knew “everything” that was going on.