Syracuse sex abuse accusers push for changes to New York laws

The two former ball boys who accuse a fired Syracuse University assistant basketball coach of molesting them decades ago lobbied Tuesday for a New York state law that would give victims more time to report sex abuse.

Bobby Davis and his stepbrother, Michael Lang, appeared with their lawyer Gloria Allred at a news conference near the state Capitol to support a measure creating a one-year grace period for filing civil sex abuse charges in cases where the statute of limitations has expired. The bill has languished in the Legislature, but advocates hope the recent sex abuse scandals at Penn State University and Syracuse will break down resistance.

Davis, 40, and Lang, 45, accuse ex-coach Bernie Fine of molesting them when they were ball boys, a charge Fine has denied. Davis told fellow advocates and reporters Tuesday that even though the memories are painful, he wants to fight for the bill so children "know we have their back."

"For a long time I couldn't say anything," he said. "I was just humiliated and devastated ... When you have kids of your own it really hits you a lot. I want to be able to stand up some day to my children and say, `I stood up for what's right."'

The district attorney in Syracuse has said Davis was credible, but he couldn't investigate under state law because the statute of limitations had expired.

The current statute of limitations in New York for bringing civil claims for child sex abuse is five years after the incident has been reported to police or five years after the victim turns 18. That was also the old standard for felony prosecutions, until state lawmakers in 2008 lifted it altogether for first-degree rape, aggravated sexual abuse and course of sexual conduct against a child.

Markey's bill would extend civil and criminal statutes to 10 years after the incident is reported or 10 years after the victim turns 18.

The bill has passed the Assembly three times but failed to pass in the Senate.

Among the bill's opponents is the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state's Roman Catholic bishops on public policy. The conference on Tuesday called the bill "fatally flawed," arguing in part that retroactively rescinding the civil statute of limitations "changes the rules after the fact and eliminates an essential protection against fraudulent claims."

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat who is chief sponsor of the current bill, said Tuesday the measure does not have a state Senate sponsor, but she was optimistic an agreement could be reached with a senator sponsoring a similar bill.

Federal prosecutors are investigating Fine.

Davis and Lang filed a separate defamation lawsuit against head coach Jim Boeheim and the university related to comments he made when charges were publicly aired in November.

Allred, known for handling high-profile cases, said they will press on with their lobbying for the bill. She said failure to bring the bill to a vote in the Legislature would be equal to a vote for sexual predators.