By Michael McAllister
So here we are. Several weeks into the Bernie Fine allegations, and things are more confusing than when the story first broke. How do we know what's credible and what's not? The not so simple answer is, everything is and is not. Bobby Davis
The court of public opinion has deemed Davis to be the most credible of the now four accusers. He clearly spent a lot of time with Bernie Fine, and something very strange was going on in that house.
Davis' credibility stems from several circumstances. First, he lived with Fine for an extended period of time. Therefore, Fine had access. He also was vulnerable as a child being from a broken home. Often times sexual abusers will target these types because they are less likely to go public. He also has been able to describe the inside of Fine's home in intimate detail. Then there's the tape. Once that was released, a vast majority of the public deemed Davis to be telling the truth. The tape definitely revealed some strange dynamics within the household. Lastly, DA Fitzpatrick stated he was credible. There seems to be no reason why Fitzpatrick would state that unless there was evidence he viewed as proving Davis' credibility. David has also portrayed a lot of the signs of an abuse victim. He's very figity when he speaks, is emotional when he talks about the alleged abuse, and has been rumored to have had issues with substance abuse in the past.
Even with that, there are several things which challenge Davis' credibility. First, there's the inconsistencies with how Davis first met Bernie Fine. When the story first broke, he told ESPN he met Fine selling candy door-to-door. Days later, Outside the Lines said Davis told them he first met Fine by being introduced to him by his stepbrother Mike Lang. In a Post-Standard article, he said he first met Fine playing basketball at Sunnycrest Park. There's also the fact that his claims were investigated by ESPN, SU, and the Post-Standard years ago. None of those investigations found anything. Now there the lawsuit and hiring of Gloria Allred. Hiring Allred signaled to a lot of the public that he was only after money, despite his claims this has nothing to do with money. After Boeheim apologized, Davis stated he appreciated his apology and didn't think Boeheim knew what was going on with Fine. In the lawsuit, however, it suggests Boeheim knew and that the apology was not good enough. It also states he is afraid to leave his house as a result of Boeheim's comments, yet he traveled to New York City to file the lawsuit and do a CNN interview, and did a local interview with ABC Channel 9. In that interview, he stated he remembered traveling in the team bus to the final four in 1987. That final four was in New Orleans, and it's more likely that the team flew. Mike Lang
Similar to Bobby Davis, his credibility stems largely from the tape and Firzpatrick's claims. His accounts of how he was abused is similar to Fine's, so it shows a pattern. When an abuser has several victims, generally there is a commonality with how the abuse occurred. This is true with Lang and Davis.
However, Lang has also stated he doesn't want Boeheim fired, and was seen in his CNN interview with Syracuse memorabilia all over his home. That seems odd for someone who suffered as he alleges he did. There was also a discrepancy with his timeline of events.*According to his claims on CNN, he was first sexually abused in 1982. Since he is 45 years old now, he would've been either 15 or 16 at the time. This was noted by a recent syracuse.com article. However, in his original interview with ESPN's Outside The Lines, he said he was first molested by Fine when he was in the 5th or 6th grade. That would put him in the 10-12 year old range. There's a 4-6 year gap in the two interviews. Zach Tomaselli
Zach has credibility because of the elaborate nature of his allegations, and his description of the Fine home. Also, his description of how Fine molested him in the Pittsburgh hotel room is very similar to Lang and Davis' account. At first glance, he appeared to be credible because many thought someone couldn't make up a story that elaborate and detailed. He is an abuser himself, and claims his sexual abuse was a result of being abused himself by Fine. This is a normal occurrence for the abused to become the abuser.
However, as his story was investigated, inconsistencies arose. The first story was that he rode the team bus to Pittsburgh. However, it was determined the team was on a road trip and flew to Pittsburgh from Tennessee. He then corrected it to be a bus of support staff. When he filed his suit against Bernie Fine, his lawyer said it was a bus full of college age youths. Fitzpatrick has since stated there was no evidence of a University bus leaving Syracuse for Pittsburgh during the time frame in question. There's also thoughts that attendance records show him to be in school on those days. He claims his father, a member of the school board, tampered with records. His father also stated Zach was lying and never traveled to Pittsburgh. Zach also accused his father of molesting him several months ago, and those charges were dismissed. Floyd VanHooser
The fourth accuser who's story was just made public on Thursday shared a similar story to Davis. He claims he was taken in as an orphan by Bernie Fine. In 1969, at age 14, Fine started sexually abusing him. There is documented evidence which places him in Fine's home during different time periods. VanHooser claims he lived with Fine on and off for 40 years. He also told his story not knowing of all of the allegations that have been in the news because he's been incarcerated. It appears he had no reason to make this up, and couldn't know if there was any financial gain since he didn't know about the other allegations. He also reportedly told his ex-girlfriend about the abuse nearly a decade ago.
However, his ex stated VanHooser told her he was first molested when he was 15. He told the Post-Standard it started when he was 14. Also, Fitzpatrick has stated the fourth accuser is a liar. He said, "there simply is no fourth victim." The Post-Standard also states VanHooser had been writing the DA for years which contradict his claims of abuse now. VanHooser also admittedly has taken loans from Fine which were not repaid. He also has stated he wrote Fine several times this summer after being arrested. He asked for money and for Fine to pay for a defense attorney. Those seem like things to do for an abuse victim.
The worst part about this case is that there are strong arguments that suggest the accusers are credible, but also that suggest they are not. It's almost impossible to process the allegations because everything seems to pull you in opposite directions simultaneously. Three of the accusers cannot file charges against Fine because the statute of limitations has expired, and Tomaselli seems to be the least credible of the four. Media outlets holding a damning tape for years, ESPN not airing the tape with its original report, authority agencies quabbling with each other over records, and Allred's involvement have turned this into more of a circus than an investigation. Since the focus has shifted too far from the search for truth, I'm afraid it will be something we never find.