An investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by an associate coach of the Syracuse basketball squad has touched off a battle between police and the District Attorney's office. That dispute came to a full boil today during a news conference by the District Attorney. YNN's Bill Carey was there and has the details.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: The police, who investigate crime and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.
And the stories being told these days in Syracuse are not happy ones. A District Attorney is on the warpath. The target of his wrath? Syracuse's Police Chief.
“The adults are not running the Syracuse Police Department,” District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.
The boiling point in the long simmering tension between Fitzpatrick and Frank Fowler was breached with the newly mounted police investigation of years-old claims of sexual abuse against Syracuse University associate basketball coach Bernie Fine.
Police had looked at the charges years ago, but decided the acts were outside the statute of limitations. When the allegations erupted again last week, Fitzpatrick said he was taken by surprise, that he had never been aware of earlier investigations. He demanded police files, but police, with the backing of Mayor Stephanie Miner, said no, not until the probe was complete. The two sides are fighting out the access issue in court.
Then, Wednesday morning, a newspaper story saying the DA's office had received phone messages from a friend of the alleged victim in the Fine case, but had never responded. The source of that information, a statement contained in the 2002 investigation.
“Somebody, and it could only be one of two people. It had to be the chief, Frank Fowler or the Deputy Chief Shawn Broton, leaked that affidavit to the press at the same time their attorney is in front of Judge Murphy saying we can't turn this over because it would compromise our investigation,” Fitzpatrick said.
Mayor Stephanie Miner had said no information would be released until the investigation was complete.
Fitzpatrick said, “Okay. It has been released piecemeal. Not by the boogie man. Not by the Easter Bunny. But by Chief Fowler or Deputy Chief Shawn Broton. Or somebody did it at their direction. There are no other possibilities. What are you going to do about that?”
Fitzpatrick still angry over the initial response of police when his subpoena for records was delivered by an assistant.
“Went over to perform the ministerial act of serving a court order on a deputy chief and was told, hey, by the way, tell your boss to go F himself. This is the deputy chief of the Syracuse Police Department. When are the adults going to take over here and somebody say, I'm in charge,” Fitzpatrick said.
The District Attorney says the car of one of his investigators parked nearby was vandalized. And his other aides face new restrictions here at the Public Safety Building. They need to sign in when they enter the building, formally request any documents and pay 50 cents per page.
“These are the paybacks of a juvenile mind,” said Fitzpatrick. “Someone that really, really doesn't belong in law enforcement.”
The mayor issued a statement supporting her police chief and accusing Fitzpatrick of resorting to "histrionics and grandstanding." The mayor saying the police are focused on trying to find the truth in this highly charged environment.
Fitzpatrick vows his investigation will continue until he uncovers answers in the Fine case.
“I will know. And all of you will know, when I find out,” Fitzpatrick said. “And I will do that with or without Frank Fowler. He is irrelevant to me.”
A State Supreme Court Judge is due to hear arguments in the dispute over the DA's access to the police files next Tuesday.
Watch part of the news conference:
YNN: DA versus Syracuse Police
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