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DA William Fitzpatrick Declares War on Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler over Bernie Fine Case

By Jim O'Hara
The Post-Standard
November 23, 2011

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2011/11/da_william_fitzpatrick_declare.html

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick blasted the Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler of his department's handling of the Bernie Fine investigation at a press conference today.

[with video]

Syracuse, NY - District Attorney William Fitzpatrick today accused Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and Deputy Chief Shawn Broton of criminally "leaking" a witness affidavit in the Bernie Fine case in an effort to embarrass the prosecutor's office.

"This should frighten every person in the city of Syracuse," Fitzpatrick said. He went on to accuse Fowler of implementing new procedures restricting prosecution access to all reports in the possession of police and to suggest police officials may be responsible for the vandalism of one of his investigator's cars.

"You do not have a police chief. You have a fiefdom," Fitzpatrick angrily claimed in a late morning press conference in his office.

The DA said he believes the police actions aimed at his office are designed "to deflect attention from what they did or didn't do in 2002" when former Syracuse University ball boy Bobby Davis claims he first reported to police that he had been molested by Fine, the SU associate basketball coach.

Complete coverage of the Bernie Fine investigation

Fitzpatrick called on Mayor Stephanie Miner to get some answers about how the Fine case witness' statement was leaked to The Post-Standard for a story in today's newspaper when the mayor announced Monday that there would be no piecemeal release of information to anyone until the police investigation was completed.

Wednesday afternoon, the mayor released the following statement:

"Since new information came to light Thursday, the Syracuse Police Department, under the excellent leadership of Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and Deputy Police Chief Shawn Broton, has focused its efforts on investigating these horrendous allegations.

"Chief Fowler, Deputy Chief Broton and the Syracuse Police Department have conducted themselves with complete professionalism and integrity throughout this process. We are focused on trying to find the truth in this highly charged environment.

"It is deeply unfortunate for the people of this community, the accused and the accusers that the District Attorney has chosen a different tactic, resorting to personal and professional attacks. Despite his histrionics and grandstanding, we will continue to investigate these allegations and share information with the authorities, including the District Attorney and the U.S. Attorney's Office, at the appropriate time.

"Let me be clear: Chief Fowler and Deputy Chief Broton did not in any way authorize the release of or provide any documents or information to the Syracuse Post Standard. In fact, it should not be lost on the media that the District Attorney has indeed been the only one who has been regularly providing information to the media."

Fitzpatrick said the leaking of the witness' statement is a Class E felony. That's because it's a document that was covered by a judicial subpoena issued Monday for the police to turn over all reports in the case to the DA's Office by 10 a.m. Tuesday to be presentenced to a grand jury.

While he said he did not expect the newspaper would voluntarily reveal where the statement came from, he said he has the power to issue subpoenas to get to the bottom of that as part of the Fine investigation his office is conducting.

Fitzpatrick said he has had numerous conversations with Miner about his office's problems with Fowler for a couple of years, but he has never gone so far as to call for Fowler's firing. He stopped short of that again today.

But his criticism of the chief was bitter.

"These are paybacks of a juvenile mind, somebody who really doesn't belong in law enforcement," Fitzpatrick said.

"You think I'm going to stand for this?" he asked angrily. "You think I'm going to allow this emperor to think he's going to undermine public safety?"

Fitzpatrick accused Fowler and Broton of "intentionally trying to sabotage" his office's proper investigation of the Fine matter. That includes both Davis' allegations of being molested and what police did or didn't do about those allegations when they were reported to police in 2002, he said.

"I will do that with or without Frank Fowler. He is irrelevant to me," Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick's office reportedly called the press conference to address a completely different case. When the DA was finished with that matter, he openly invited reporters to ask about anything else.

The immediate result was questions about the Fine investigation and the apparent break-down in relations between the prosecution and police that prompted Fitzpatrick to seek a subpoena from state Supreme Court Justice James Murphy Monday for the police files from 2002 and the current investigation.

The prosecution has a "very, very good" relationship with the rank and file in the police department, Fitzpatrick said.

"The relationship between me, Chief Frank Fowler and Deputy Chief Sean Broton is not good," he admitted.

"The adults are not running the Syracuse Police Department," he said.

Fitzpatrick then turned attention specifically to the story in The Post-Standard Wednesday in which Davis' former girlfriend, Danielle Roach, said she tried to contact First Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio about the matter in 2002 but her phone calls to him were never returned.

Fitzpatrick said Trunfio keeps a detailed record of all phone messages he receives and a check back to the time in question shows no messages from Roach or from anyone about a victim being molested by an SU basketball coach.

The DA said he believes Roach made calls to his office. But he does not believe Trunfio ignored them. Instead, he believes they may have been referred to someone else and misplaced.

But he harshly criticized the release to The Post-Standard of Roach's recent statement to police. That violated the promises police made to Roach to keep her statement from being released publicly, Fitzpatrick said. He said he based that assessment on a conversation he had with Roach this morning.

On Sunday, however, Roach had given an on-camera interview to ESPN's "Outside the Lines" program.

It also was in violation of Miner's statement Monday that police would not release information about the investigation piecemeal, the DA said.

The chief or the deputy chief leaked this affidavit to the press while the city was refusing to turn the very same document over to the prosecution, he charged.

The conduct by Fowler and/or Broton is aimed at embarrassing the prosecutor's office, Fitzpatrick said.

He then bluntly asked what Miner planned to do about that.

Fitzpatrick said that when a member of his office delivered the Murphy subpoena to Broton Monday, the deputy chief responded, "tell your boss to go eff himself."

"When are the adults going to take over her and say 'I'm in charge,' " Fitzpatrick asked.

He then began a series of complaints about the chief's handling of this situation and the department.

The police department Tuesday began requiring prosecutors to show identification and authorization to get into the Public Safety Building and to pay 50 cents a page for any police reports, he said.

He also faulted himself for standing quietly by when Fowler misrepresented facts in prior cases at press conferences.

He specifically mentioned a case where Fowler talked about a shooting victim being shot in the face when the evidence showed he was actually shot in the back of the head. The DA did not name the case today, but it was clearly a reference to the fatal shooting of Dominique Smith by a city police officer on South State Street this past summer.

Fitzpatrick also said police officials had opposed the Abused Persons Unit, the McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center and other public safety issues.

"Shame on me. I never challenged him," Fitzpatrick said.

"There's a serious problem here folks and it ain't getting any better," he said.

Fitzpatrick said Fowler and Broton have spent the past two days trying to embarrass the prosecutor's office. He said he had no intent to embarrass the police when he questioned what investigation had been conducted of Davis' original complaint to police in 2002.

"My motive was not to embarrass the police department. It was to find out what happened to Bobby Davis," he said.

Fitzpatrick said he has had numerous conversations with Fowler over the years to address concerns and disputes. The DA said he has asked Fowler "to behave like the chief of police."

He then said he most recently expressed concerns about Fowler's comments after a Syracuse man was accused of fatally shooting two companions and injuring a third while allegedly under the influence of drugs.

Having Fowler publicly talk about the defendant being "out of his mind" makes the job of prosecuting the defendant more difficult, the DA said. That was an apparent reference to the murder case against Martinous Hudson.

He also said Broton has advocated keeping ballistic evidence from shooting incidents in the possession of the police department and not the forensic crime lab.

"This has been going on way too long," he said. Fitzpatrick said any problems with prior police chiefs were handled by sitting down and discussing the issues in a professional manner. But that is not happening with Fowler, he said.

Fitzpatrick said he talked to Fowler after the Fine story broke on ESPN last Thursday and the police chief promised to keep him "in the loop." He didn't, prompting the visit to Murphy for the court subpoena Monday, the DA said.

Fitzpatrick said he could only surmise there is "something in the file" that prompted the police department not to share it with the DA's office but to call in an Assistant U.S. Attorney instead.

He later identified the federal prosecutor as Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Clymer but federal officials have declined to comment on any involvement in the Fine investigation.

Fitzpatrick said the actions of Fowler and Broton appear designed to deflect attention from what police did or did not do to investigate Davis' allegations in 2002.

With no allegations of wrongdoing by SU coach Jim Boeheim, Fitzpatrick said there is no conflict of interest for him to conduct the investigation while serving on a charitable board with Boeheim.

The dispute between his office and the police is really nothing but a "distraction" keeping authorities from getting to the bottom of the matter, he said.

"The longer this is dragged out, the more suspicious I become," he added.

Asked about Davis' original complaints to police coming when former SU basketball player Dennis Duval was police chief, Fitzpatrick said he does not know what, if anything, Duval knew because none of the police reports from that time have been shared with his office.

Fitzpatrick said the goal of his investigation is to either clear the name of an innocent man wrongly accused or to support a victim who was molested "and take a predator" out of circulation.


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