Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – Bobby Davis claims someone close to his coach knew that he was being molested as a teenager, but never told police. The wife of Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine is suddenly at the center of a sexual abuse scandal, after ESPN released an audio recording Sunday.
Davis claims he taped a phone call with Laurie Fine in 2002, in which the two discuss the alleged abuse. Davis, now 39 years old, claims Laurie Fine saw her husband abuse him in her basement.
In the recording, ESPN says Laurie Fine can be heard saying "I know everything that went on with him...Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues... and you trusted someone you shouldn't have."
Davis goes on to ask her, "Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?"
The woman responded, "No...I think there might have been others but it was geared to...there was something about you."
While police have not confirmed reports that Laurie Fine is the woman heard on the tape, ESPN says they hired a voice-recognition expert to confirm the voice on the recording is Laurie Fine. In a statement, the sports network admits they've had the tape for several years.
"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."
The average person is not held to the same standards as teachers and other professionals who are required to report suspicions of abuse to police.
Attorney Paul DerOhannesian told NewsChannel 9, "A third person down the street, a friend, a neighbor, someone who may know of child abuse, does not necessarily have the legal duty . There may be a moral duty, there may be an ethical duty, but not necessarily a legal duty."
In an interview, ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz said Bobby Davis “recorded the tape to try to at least corroborate his story", after police had told him the statute of limitations for his claims had run out.
In November, a second accuser, Mike Lang, came forward, prompting ESPN to finally report the allegations. Lang is Davis' step-brother.
Bernie Fine's attorneys released this statement to NewsChannel 9 on Sunday:
"Mr. Fine will not comment on newspaper stories beyond his initial statement. Any comment from him would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims. Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities."
Legal aspects of the recording
The recording may seem like a major piece of evidence for Davis, but Attorney Emil Rossi says it probably wouldn't be admissible if the case ever goes to trial. He says the portions of the call that ESPN released are hearsay, including the woman's statements that she was aware of possible abuse.
"To simply say 'I know what he did, I know it all', is more like a statement of opinion than it is a fact," said Rossi. "In terms of evidence, that establishes absolutely nothing."
Rossi says admissible evidence at a trial would include situations Laurie Fine witnessed first-hand. Then, her husband legally has the right to dispute any claims and cross examine the person making accusatory statements. A tape can't be cross-examined.
The recording includes a question from Davis: "Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?"
The woman responds: "No...I, I think there might have been others."
Rossi says the statements are only an expression of opinion by the woman.
"It is very explosive in terms of the current tenor of the investigation, but it's this (zero) in a courtroom."
Fine never talks about witnessing abuse in the portions of the call that ESPN released. She does recall a conversation with her husband, warning him that she knows "things" and fears they will become public if he pushes it.
"That's a conversation between a husband and a wife about the alleged commission of a crime and it is privileged," said Rossi.
Spouses have the right to private exchanges. The privilege is waived when publicly discussed, but Bernie Fine wasn't present during the call to waive his privileges.
Why Davis chose to record a call with Laurie Fine instead of his alleged abuser could also become a point of argument.