Today ESPN released excerpts of a tape-recorded phone conversation between the wife of Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine and a man who claims Fine repeatedly sexually molested him beginning when he was in the seventh grade.
(Fine acknowledgement of abuse not enough for ESPN to give tape to cops?)
The audio, recorded on Oct. 8, 2002, includes Fine accuser Bobby Davis, now 39, discussing his alleged molestation with Laurie Fine.
Throughout the call, Laurie Fine acknowledged the abuse - and her husband’s unwillingness to own up to what amounted to serious, criminal behavior.
Laurie Fine to Davis:
“I know everything that went on, you know. I know everything that went on with him … And you trusted somebody you shouldn’t have trusted …
“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.”
When talking about Bernie Fine’s unwillingness to give Davis $5,000 to help him pay off student loans, Bernie Fine’s accuser said to the wife of the Syracuse basketball coach during their 2002 phone call, “It’s not about the money.”
Laurie Fine then replied, “It’s about the d—. I know that. I’m just telling you for your own good, you’re better off just staying away from him.”
Fine’s wife later said during the taped call that her husband wasn’t worried about the legal repercussions of his alleged sexual abuse of children because, “he thinks he’s above the law.”
Also during the call, Davis asked Fine’s wife: “Do you think I’m the only one that he’s ever done that to?”
Laurie Fine’s response to Davis: “No … I think there might have been others … ”
Today the Syracuse Post-Standard may have confirmed Laurie Fine’s suspicions about her husband’s further sexual abuse of children with a new report of a 23-year-old man now accusing Fine, on the record, of molesting him in a hotel room in 2002 during a Syracuse University basketball team road trip.
In its report today, ESPN justified not going public with the Davis allegations in 2003 - which include the taped phone call of Laurie Fine - thusly:
Davis first gave the tape to ESPN in 2003. At the time, ESPN did not report Davis’ accusations, or report the contents of the tape, because no one else would corroborate his story. After a second man said this month that he was also molested by Fine (that man is Mike Lang, Davis’ step brother), ESPN hired a voice-recognition expert who said the voice on the tape matches the voice of Laurie Fine.
ESPN also reported that after it broke its initial story of the accusations against Bernie Fine on Nov. 17, 2011, “Davis shared the tape with Syracuse police, one of several law-enforcement agencies who have opened an investigation into the case.”
After the ESPN report today the SYRACUSE POST-STANDARD, which previously reported that it was first contacted by Davis in 2003 about alleged Fine abuse, indicated that it was provided the tape as well:
Bobby Davis taped the 47-minute phone call with Laurie Fine, the coach’s wife for 26 years, on Oct. 8, 2002 and provided the tape to The Post-Standard shortly after. … After a six-month investigation, The Post-Standard did not publish a story about Davis’ allegations or the tape in 2002 because the newspaper could find no witnesses, enough corroborating evidence or a second accuser.
The Post-Standard, like ESPN, did not report today why it did not turn the tape over to authorities.
While ESPN and the Post-Standard both have indicated why it did not publish the allegations made by Davis against Fine in 2003, it has not yet commented on why it did not turn over the audio tape to Syracuse law enforcement in 2003.
Considering it had possession of hard evidence of the wife of Bernie Fine acknowledging that he may have committed sexual abuse against children - and that authorities were unaware of Fine’s possible continuing criminal activity - ESPN and the Post-Standard not providing such evidence to law enforcement at the time is, at best, morally reprehensible.
At worst? Culpable.
Time will tell.