Bernie Fine Accusers Davis, Lang in Albany Tuesday to Support Bill to Extend Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse

By Emily Kulkus
The Post-Standard
February 25, 2012

Former Syracuse ball boys Bobby Davis (left) and Mike Lang (right) flank attorney Gloria Allred during a news conference, Dec. 13, 2011, in New York. The men say they were molested by former assistant Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine and have sued the school and men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim for defamation.

The two men accusing former Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them when they were children will appear with their lawyer in Albany on Tuesday in support of a bill that aims to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims in New York state.

The bill would allow child victims of sexual abuse to report the crime up to five years after his or her 23rd birthday. The current law allows a victim to report up to five years after his or her 18th birthday. The proposed legislation extends the statute five years for criminal and civil cases.

Should it be passed, the bill would also create a one-year window during which former child victims could report incidents of sex abuse regardless of when it occurred. California and Delaware have allowed for similar windows, resulting in hundreds of lawsuits, many against the Catholic Church.

Former SU ballboy Bobby Davis first tried to report his allegations of abuse by Fine to police in 2002 when he was 30 years old. Had the proposed statute been in place, Davis still would have been too old for Fine to be charged. However, the one-year window would allow Davis to file suit against Fine since it allows claims of any age.

Complete coverage of the Bernie Fine case

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, D-Queens, the Assembly has passed the Child Victims Act three times since 2005 but it has died in the Senate each time. The bill does not have a current Senate sponsor. Republicans fear the one-year window would overwhelm the system with old claims.

"This particular bill is overly broad, and its retroactivity clause could lead to the filing of numerous civil lawsuits," said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate Republican majority.

Opponents of the bill over the years have said the one-year window could create a torrent of old claims that are often difficult to prove. Advocates of statutes of limitations say they are necessary because witnesses die and memories fade.

California offered a one-year window in 2003 for child sex abuse claims of any age. Hundreds of lawsuits poured in, including 800 against the Roman Catholic Diocese in California. The one-year window in Delaware resulted in about 100 cases.

Markey's office is planning three press events starting Tuesday in the hopes of finding a Senate sponsor or to gain the governor's support, said Mike Armstrong, a communications and policy aid for Markey.

Markey reached out to former SU ballboys Davis and Mike Lang because of the attention they and the sex abuse scandal at Penn State involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky have brought to the issue of child sex abuse, Armstrong said.

"We are absolutely riding the wave of the attention of the cases at Penn State and SU," he said. "This has a whole new sector of society paying attention to this issue and it makes people think about things that have been unthinkable in the past."

The events include press conferences on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with child sex abuse victims.

Davis and Lang's attorney, Gloria Allred, said in a press release from Markey's office that she and her clients support the one-year window to report old sex abuse crimes. Allred said she will be at the Tuesday press conference.

Davis and Lang are suing SU and head basketball coach Jim Boeheim for defamation over comments Boeheim made Nov. 17 when he called them money-hungry liars for accusing Fine of molesting them. A judge ruled last week that the case should be moved from New York City to Syracuse.

Fine, 66, has not been charged and has denied all wrongdoing. SU fired Fine Nov. 27.



Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.