Syracuse police knew of sex-abuse allegations against a Syracuse University basketball coach back in 2002 but were unable to arrest him because the statute of limitations had run out, the city's police chief said Tuesday.
Then police Chief Dennis DuVal, who himself was a Syracuse basketball player in the 1970s, was aware of accusations against assistant coach Bernie Fine, current Syracuse police Chief Frank Fowler said in a statement.
Fine, who has been fired, denies the allegations.
Detective Doug Fox in 2002 told the accuser -- who has been identified as Bobby Davis, a former ball boy for the university's basketball team -- that since the allegations were from 12 years earlier the statute of limitations had passed, Fowler said. Fox advised his supervisor but didn't file a formal report.
Fowler said Syracuse police would from now on formally document all reports of sexual abuse.
Davis, 39, told ESPN that Fine first molested him in 1984 and that sexual contact continued until he was around 27. Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, also told ESPN that Fine molested him.
The full statement issued on behalf of Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler:
I would like to set the record straight and clear up some misconceptions that have surfaced in the media about what did or did not happen in 2002 under a previous Syracuse Police Department Administration when allegations of abuse by Bernie Fine were brought to the attention of a Syracuse Police Detective.
It is my belief that the public has the right to know who knew what and when in 2002 and 2003. After reviewing this matter for nearly two weeks, the following is an explanation of what occurred since 2002 within the Syracuse Police Department
In 2002, the Syracuse Police Department did not start an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Bernie Fine. Syracuse Police will not identify the original victim. However, the victim revealed to a friend, who we now know to be Danielle Roach, that Bernie Fine had sexually abused him over the course of several years. Ms. Roach convinced the victim to report the abuse to authorities. Ms. Roach contacted a local attorney who provided her the name of Det. Doug Fox of the Syracuse Police Department's Abused Persons Unit. This attorney then notified Det. Fox that he may be getting a phone call from a female who wanted to speak to him about a sexual abuse case. Several weeks later, Ms. Roach contacted that detective and told him that Bernie Fine had sexually abused her friend. Ms. Roach was asked to have the victim contact Syracuse Police directly. Approximately a month later, Det. Fox took a call from the victim who told the detective he was calling from Utah. In a brief phone conversation, he stated that Bernie Fine had sexually abused him while growing up and the abuse had occurred while he stayed at the Fine residence. He stated the abuse had occurred at least twelve (12) years prior to the phone call. After hearing the victim's allegations and the timeframe, Det. Fox informed the victim the statute of limitations had expired. Due to the amount of time that had passed, authorities would be precluded by law from making an arrest. Det. Fox then told the victim that if he wished to meet with him in person, or if he was aware of any current victims, he would like the victim to share additional information. The victim believed he knew the first names of possible victims and that if he learned their last names, he would call back.
Det. Fox notified his supervisor in the Abused Persons Unit and it was decided that unless the victim met with the detective or the victim was able to provide names of other victims, then an investigation would not be initiated. The Syracuse Police Chief at that time, Dennis DuVal, was made aware of the allegations against Bernie Fine. Due to the fact that no investigation was started, Det. Fox did not prepare any formal reports.
Several months later, in 2003, the Syracuse Police Department received an inquiry from the Syracuse Post Standard as to whether an investigation had been conducted on Bernie Fine. The Post Standard was informed that no investigation had taken place.
It should be noted that the first time the Syracuse Police Department ever met face to face with any victim in this case was on November 17, 2011, when two victims came to the Syracuse Police Department, along with new evidence. Ms. Roach informed us that the Syracuse Post Standard and ESPN were both in possession of a copy of that evidence and had been in possession of the evidence since 2003. At no time in the last eight years did the Post Standard or ESPN notify Syracuse Police that they were in possession of that evidence.
The first time the Syracuse Police Department learned of Syracuse University's internal investigation was when the University presented the Syracuse Police Department with a copy of its report on November 17, 2011.
On November 17, 2011, after hearing the allegations made by the victims and reviewing new evidence, the Syracuse Police Department initiated an investigation to determine if in fact these allegations were true, and if there are any current sexual abuse victims. The investigation is active and ongoing and has entered a new phase with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service taking the lead.
The Syracuse Police Department will continue to work diligently with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Secret Service and the Onondaga County District Attorney to fully investigate all allegations.
I was not the Chief in 2002 and I cannot change the procedures in place at that time or the way this matter was then handled. But what I can and will do as Chief today is ensure that moving forward all reports of sexual abuse are formally documented. I have ordered a review of all Syracuse Police Department policies and procedures regarding the documentation of sexual abuse allegations made over the phone and appropriate changes will be made accordingly.