Prof. Bennett Gershman comments on a prosecutor’s controversial statements in Syracuse child sex abuse case

According to a story in The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), many legal experts believe the Onondaga County District Attorney overstepped his boundaries when he spoke at a lengthy news conference this week, providing ample detail on the investigation into former Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine. Syracuse police and federal Secret Service are still investigating allegations against Fine.

DA William Fitzpatrick’s discussed one complainant’s allegations of crimes that occurred in Pittsburgh, outside of his jurisdiction. Fitzpatrick announced that he had obtained evidence that cast doubt on this victim’s allegations.

Prof. Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor in Manhattan, said such statements could prejudice any legal proceedings that might have been brought against Fine. Agreeing with other law professors quoted in the story, Gershman said it is extremely unusual for a prosecutor to publicly hand over exculpatory material to the defense before any arrest has been made–particularly if another agency is pursuing the case.

“It’s more than unusual,” Gershman said. “It’s incomprehensible to me why he would do something like that.”

Gershman later commented: “I think it’s misconduct for a prosecutor to use the public forum and the power of his office to assert that the suspect is guilty, which he in effect did.”

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