A prison inmate, one of four men who accused former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of sexual abuse when they were children, has admitted he made up his claim.
The accuser, Floyd VanHooser, wrote in a letter that he lied to police and in December interviews with The Associated Press and The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse. He said he wanted to get back at Fine because he did not hire a lawyer to help VanHooser fight a criminal conviction.
Fine helped raise VanHooser, 56, after his parents died. 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.
Two other men, former Syracuse ball boys in the 1980s, accused Fine late last year of abusing them as children, but the statute of limitations has expired. Fine was fired Nov. 27 after they came forward, ending his 35-plus years as an assistant at Syracuse.
Fine, 66, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. Fine's attorney, Karl Sleight, declined to comment yesterday. A federal investigation is ongoing.
Another man also has accused Fine, though a prosecutor has said there is evidence that undercuts that claim.
VanHooser told The Associated Press last month that Fine began sexually abusing him when VanHooser was 14. He said the abuse continued as an adult, when the contact included sex acts for money.
On Thursday, The Post-Standard received copies of two letters dated Nov. 29 that VanHooser wrote and mailed to Fine. One letter is addressed to Fine and the other "to whom it may concern."
"In a statement I gave, I told a lot of lies about Bernie Fine. None of what I said was true," VanHooser wrote. "Bernie has been nothing but good to me over the years. He was the only thing I had close to a father. He never did anything wrong. He is a good man."
VanHooser confirmed Friday that he wrote the letters and did so without being asked. When asked if his statements to police were true, VanHooser said only parts were.
When Syracuse police detectives questioned him about Fine's relationship with him as a child, VanHooser said he did not offer specifics. "They suggested things and I went along with it," he told the newspaper.
The moment the detectives walked out of the room, VanHooser said, he regretted saying Fine had abused him. VanHooser said he wanted "revenge" but did not think "the story would go as far as it did."