As a third man, Zach Tomaselli, comes forward with details of sexual abuse by Bernie Fine, a telephone recording by another victim reveals, in chilling detail, that one person did know about the cycle of molestation and could verify his claims: Laurie Fine, the Syracuse coach’s wife.
Bobby Davis, 39, was the first to accuse Bernie Fine of sexual abuse, beginning in the seventh grade and continuing for several years. On Oct. 8, 2002, Davis placed a call to Fine’s wife Laurie and recorded the conversation so he could give it to the police.
In the conversation, Laurie Fine reveals that she not only knew about the sexual abuse her husband, now fired from Syracuse, had subjected Davis to, but had done nothing about it.
I know everything that went on, you know, Laurie Fine told him. I know everything that went on with him.
There was something about you.
During the taped phone call, which was legally recorded, Davis pressures Fine’s wife to talk about the abuse, which Fine denies, and allude to the other victims.
Along with his step brother Mike Lang and third accuser Zach Romaselli, Bobby Davis is the third known victim in the Bernie Fine sex abuse investigation. Davis however, says he was specially targeted by Fine, and Fine's wife seems to agree.
Do you think I'm the only one he's ever done that to? Davis asked Laurie Fine.
I think there might have been others, she responded, but it was geared to... there was something about you.
Fine’s wife also said that Fine himself may not acknowledge what he did.
Bernie is also in denial,” she told him. “I think that he did the things he did, but he's somehow, through his own mental telepathy, has erased them out of his mind.
Fine's Wife Downplays Abuse
During the taped telephone conversation, Laurie Fine expressed regret that she was unable to stop her husband Bernie, saying she felt powerless and didn’t know how to intervene.
I care about you, and I didn't want to see you being treated that way, Laurie Fine said in the 2002 phone call. It's hard... if it were another girl like I told you, it would be easy to step in because you know what you're up against... [When] it's another guy, you can't compete with that.
Despite Fine’s assurances, several sections in the taped conversation considerably cloud the picture she paints as a helpless observer.
During parts of her conversation with Davis, Laurie Fine reveals that her husband Bernie is not the only one allegedly living in denial. At several points in the phone call, Fine appears to downplay Fine’s actions by identifying them with a need for male camaraderie or as an avenue to a gay affair.
Her statements skirt over the fact that, far from trying to form a consensual relationship with an adult man, Bernie Fine allegedly molested several young boys, and that his actions were not amorous but predatory.
You know, he needs ... that male companionship that I can't give him, Laurie Fine said. Nor is he interested in me, and vice versa.
She also seemed to conflate a later encounter between Davis and Fine as an issue of money rather than abuse. In the 2002 recording, Davis told her that he contacted Bernie Fine in the mid-1990s, trying to get his help paying off student loans. In exchange for the $5,000, the Syracuse assistant head coach tried to get him to perform sexual favors.
He just has a nasty attitude, Laurie Fine told him, because he didn't get his money, nor did he get what he wanted.
It's not about the money, Davis told her. Laurie replied: I know that.
You trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted.
Throughout the telephone conversation, Laurie Fine appears to struggle between distancing herself from the abuse and sympathizing with one of its victims.
“It’s just wrong,” she told Davis. “You were a kid. You're a man now, but you were a kid then. At another point in the conversation however, her tone leans dangerously close to victim-blaming. “You trusted somebody,” Fine’s wife said, “you shouldn’t have trusted.”
More disturbing even than the phone call itself, however, is the fact that Laurie Fine was far involved in the abuse, and with Davis, than the recording reveals.
In an interview with ESPN, Davis said that Laurie Fine was a frequent observer of the beginning of the sexual abuse, even if she didn’t watch or participate in Bernie Fine’s molestations.
She was there a lot of the times, and has seen a lot of the things that were going on when Bernie would come down to the basement in his house at night, Davis said.
The alleged victim also revealed that Fine, far from distancing herself from Davis as he grew older, became closer to him when he reached high school, culminating in an affair when he was an 18-yeaar-old senior. Davis says he was drawn to her because he could talk to her about the abuse. He also said Bernie Fine knew about the affair.
I thought he was going to kill me, Davis said about confessing the relationship to Fine, and it didn't faze him one bit.
He thinks he's above the law.
When Bobby Davis first recorded his conversation with Fine’s wife in 2002, he felt sure it was enough proof to launch an investigation. When he handed over the tape to ESPN to publish, however, the sports news network declined, saying no one could collaborate his story.
It was not until 2011, when news group “Outside the Lines” and Syracuse police began to investigate the charges, that a second man, Davis’ step brother Mike Lang, stepped forward.
ESPN then hired a voice recognition expert to examine the tape, who confirmed that the voice on the phone was Fine’s wife.
At the end of the phone call, Laurie Fine gave Bobby Davis a warning, one that is particularly chilling as the charges against the Syracuse coach become more and more convincing, and as the Syracuse assistant coach continues to deny the charges.
I'm just telling you for your own good, you're better off staying away from him, she told Davis.
He doesn't think he can be touched, Davis replied.
No, Laurie Fine said. He thinks he's above the law.