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DA: Bernie Fine accusers credible, but no charges

New York law enforcement officials said former Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine cannot be prosecuted on child abuse charges because the statute of limitations to bring those charges ran out. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A county district attorney investigating sex abuse charges against former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine said Wednesday he cannot bring charges against Fine but that two men who accused him are credible.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said his investigation into the claims against Fine started out to answer several questions, among them: Were the first two accusers, Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Michael Lang, being truthful?

"On almost every single criteria, Bobby Davis came out as a credible person," the district attorney said. "Mike Lang also comes across as a credible person."

The 65-year-old Fine, who had been head coach Jim Boeheim's top assistant since 1976, has adamantly denied wrongdoing.

The accusations against Fine once appeared to threaten the job of Boeheim, who has said he is unaware of any abuses happening during his tenure.

Boeheim at first vehemently defended his longtime friend and assistant and said the accusations were lies to make money in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. He later backtracked and said he was wrong to question the motives of the accusers.

Davis and Lang, both former ballboys for the team, have accused Fine of molesting them at his home, on the road with the team or in team facilities when they were boys. Fitzpatrick said allegations from a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Maine, don't relate to Onondaga County.

The district attorney said Davis tried to report his accusations in 2002 and criticized the Syracuse police for how the investigation was handled.

"Bobby, I'm sorry it took so long," the district attorney said. "I wish I had known you as a prosecutor in 2002 or even better in the 1990s."

Fitzpatrick said a 2005 probe by the university into Davis' claims was inadequate but said people should stop calling for the resignation of Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Boeheim.

Blame, he said, stops with one man: "Hasn't Bernie Fine caused enough pain in this community?" Fitzpatrick asked.

He said it also was wrong to make any comparison to the sex scandal at Penn State University that cost legendary football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier their jobs.

"It's not only inaccurate, it's not fair," he said.

Fine was fired after the three men made public accusations and ESPN played a 2002 recording of a phone call in which a woman ESPN identified as his wife tells an accuser she knew "everything that went on."

Tomaselli's claims fall within federal statutes of limitations and are being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.

Investigators searched Fine's home, office and school locker, looking for pornography that could be used "to sexually arouse or groom young males" to have sex, court records say. The investigators took computers, cameras, disks and records, among other things. They're also looking for any records that would detail Fine's contact with boys.

Asked what might happen next in the case, Fitzpatrick said: "That's up to the U.S. Attorney's office. I can't bring Bernie Fine to justice for what he did to Bobby Davis and Mike Lang."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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