Thursday, December 8, 2011

Syracuse Prosecutor: Let me tell you what I can't tell you

On Wednesday, a top law enforcement official became the first to say publicly he believed former ballboy Bobby Davis was a victim and former Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine had abused him, reported The Associated Press.

At his news conference to explain that the statute of limitations would keep him from conducting an investigation, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick addressed Davis directly.

"Bobby, I'm sorry it took so long," he said. "I wish I had met you as a prosecutor in 2002. Even more importantly, I wish I had met you as a prosecutor back in the 1980s. We wouldn't be here today."

Fitzpatrick laid the blame squarely on Fine.

"Hasn't Bernie Fine caused enough pain in this community?" Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick said his investigation started out to answer several questions, among them: Were Davis and Lang being truthful?

"On almost every single criteria, Bobby Davis came out as a credible person," the district attorney said. "Mike Lang also comes across as a credible person."

Fitzpatrick also directed personal comments to Lang , "For Mike Lang, who still feels he could have done more to help his little brother: Mike, it's never too late to do the right thing," he said. "And let it be known by everybody in this room that you did just that: The right thing."

“It's not proper for me to say Bernie Fine is guilty," he said. "What I'm saying to you is there's no doubt in my mind that if presented with the two victim's today, there would be criminal charges against Bernie Fine that I would ethically feel comfortable asking a jury to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt."

“It’s saying something without saying it,” New York defense attorney Ed Menkin told WSYR-TV. "Guilt is something that's determined in a court of law. Not in the newsroom and not in the coffee shop. That's a very heavy kind of accusation. That's a very kind of heavy statement to make."

Menkin said it’s very unusual for a prosecutor to comment on someone’s credibility before a court proceeding.

Apparently in Onondaga County the DA is the also the judge, jury and with regard to Fine the executioner.  Since when does a prosecutor who is barred from prosecuting a case talk about how good the case would be if he could prosecute it.

How about the U.S Constitution?  The Sixth Amendment provides that an accused has the right to confront witnesses against him.  Not in Onondaga County.  The DA can dispense with the constitution when its a high profile case.

The statute of limitation was created for a purpose.  The facts related to old cases can sometimes get a little murky.  Evidence can disappear, stories can change. Yet this DA can finger someone in the court of public opinion that he acknowledges he can't convict in court.

Fine never gets his day in court--but the DA tells all the world that if there was a trial ethically he could ask for a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm not so sure ethics has entered into the equation in Onondaga County.

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