4th man accuses ex-Syracuse coach of sexual abuse

DANNEMORA, N.Y. (AP) - A 56-year-old New York prison inmate says former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine began molesting him more than 40 years ago and continued to have sexual contact with him into adulthood.

Floyd VanHooser told The Associated Press during a prison interview Thursday that Fine began sexually abusing him when VanHooser was 14 years old. As an adult, the contact included sex acts for money.

VanHooser is the fourth man to accuse Fine of sexual abuse. He initially made his allegations to the Post-Standard of Syracuse.

Fine was fired Nov. 27 after a 36-year career at Syracuse after three men said he molested them when they were boys.

Fine has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. A federal investigation is ongoing.

His lawyers did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

VanHooser is serving 16 years to life at Clinton state prison near the Canadian border for several burglaries of Syracuse-area homes. He was sentenced in October as a persistent felony burglar.

Last week, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick referred to a fourth accuser in the Fine case as someone serving a life sentence in prison as a persistent felon, but didn't disclose his name. But Fitzpatrick said that person's claims were not credible.

"There simply is no victim No. 4," Fitzpatrick said during a news conference.

VanHooser said both his parents died by the time he was 13 and he moved in with Fine at age 14, which is when the abuse started. Though he began running away after six months, VanHooser said he saw Fine on and off for nearly 40 years. He said the sexual contact continued over that period.

VanHooser has listed Fine's former Syracuse address as his own in the past, including on a tax lien from 1999. VanHooser did painting and other maintenance work on Fine's home and he also worked for several years at a Syracuse University fraternity house where Fine was an adviser for many years.

VanHooser said he never saw Fine abusing other children.

"It was always one on one," he said.

He said he saw Fine in March of this year.

Van Hooser served state prison sentences for burglaries in 1985, 1998 and 2002 before a judge sentenced him to 16 years to life this fall.

Syracuse police interviewed VanHooser last month. He said police told him that his former case worker contacted them and told them they should talk to VanHooser about his relationship with Fine.

Cindy Clarke, a former girlfriend of VanHooser's and the mother of his 17-year-old daughter, said VanHooser told her of the abuse in 2002.

"He was going to go to Bernie's and do some work on his house and he really didn't want to go. He seemed so upset, and I questioned him and he said that Bernie had been abusing him that it had started way back in 1970," Clarke said in a phone interview Thursday.

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people alleging sexual abuse unless they agree to be identified or publicly identify themselves. VanHooser agreed to have his name published.

VanHooser, who appeared stooped and ashen during Thursday's interview, said he had a cocaine addiction but stopped using cold turkey six months ago. He said he doesn't care if Fine is punished any more, noting that he already lost his job. And the inmate added that he doesn't want to talk about the issue anymore.

"I just want it to be over with," he said.


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