The child sexual assault probe of former Syracuse University assistant men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine was closed after it was determined there was insufficient evidence to file charges, U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said.
Fine, 66, was fired Nov. 27, 2011, in his 36th season at Syracuse, the longest tenure by any assistant college basketball coach in Division I. He had been placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 18 after Syracuse City Police re-opened a case the school closed in 2005 following a four-month probe.
“We have concluded that the investigation has not developed sufficient credible evidence of the commission of a prosecutable offense to merit either federal charges or a referral to a district attorney’s office for state prosecution,” Hartunian said in a statement on his office’s website. “As a result, we are closing our investigation.”
Initially accused by two former Syracuse team ball boys, Fine was fired after a third accuser came forward and ESPN played what it said was a 2002 recording of a telephone conversation that appeared to be Fine’s wife acknowledging her husband’s behavior.
“The nature and seriousness of these allegations, which involved conduct typically committed in private with individuals who are reluctant to come forward, warranted a thorough federal investigation,” Hartunian said.
Fine’s lawyers, Karl Sleight, Donald Martin and David Botsford, said their client wants his case to be a lesson.
“The damage inflicted upon Bernie and his family is simply immeasurable,” the lawyers said, according to the Associated Press. “Bernie hopes and prays that the lesson learned and remembered is that a rush to judgment has irreversible consequences.”
The Syracuse case followed charges leveled against former Penn State University defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for sexually assaulting eight young boys during a 15-year period. Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June on 45 counts of sexually abusing boys and was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison.