Prosecution concludes arguments in murder trial of Syracuse Jewish leader


The prosecution concluded its arguments in the trial of a leader in the Syracuse Jewish community accused of murdering his wife.

Prosecutors finished up their case against Dr. Robert Neulander in upstate New York’s Onondaga County Court on Tuesday. They contend that he killed his wife, Leslie, in their bedroom in DeWitt in 2012 and moved the body to make it look like she fell in the shower.

Neulander, 63, and his attorneys say he is innocent and that he had no motive for killing his wife. The defense began its arguments late Wednesday morning.

Both Neulanders were active in the Syracuse Jewish community.

In five days of testimony, prosecutors claimed that Leslie Neulander’s injuries and the location of blood stains were not consistent with a shower fall, that she died hours before 911 was called and that Neulander’s account contradicted those of other key witnesses, Syracuse.com reported.

Prosecutors also argued that Neulander’s account of his wife’s death is not plausible because there was no reason to move an injured woman 50 feet before performing life-saving efforts.

The Neulanders chaired the Jewish Federation of Central New York’s annual campaign in 2012. Leslie chaired fundraising events at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in DeWitt, and Robert played a key role in the expansion of the local Jewish community center.

Trial begins for Jewishly active N.Y. doctor accused of murdering wife


The jury has been seated in the trial of a Syracuse, N.Y., physician accused of murdering his wife.

By midday Tuesday, the 12 jurors had been picked in the case of Dr. Robert Neulander, 63, who has been charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. His wife, Leslie, was found dead in the shower of the family’s home in 2012, but the death initially was ruled an accident.

Opening arguments were slated to begin on Tuesday afternoon.

Neulander, who was released on $100,000 cash bail following his indictment in June, has denied the charges.

Both Neulanders were active in the local Jewish community.

The trial in Onondoga County Court is expected to draw a large number of spectators, so court officials opened a second courtroom where viewers can watch a closed-circuit video feed of the proceedings, The Associated Press reported.

In questioning potential jurors, defense lawyer Edward Menkin emphasized that Neulander had no motive to kill his wife. Jurors were also questioned about their ability to view graphic photos, presumably of the victim, and whether such images might affect their neutrality.

The Neulanders chaired the Jewish Federation of Central New York’s annual campaign in 2012. Leslie chaired fundraising events at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in DeWitt and Robert played a key role in the expansion of the local Jewish community center.

Their four children attended the Syracuse Hebrew Day School.

Syracuse fires basketball coach Bernie Fine amid sex probe


Syracuse University fired assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine amid allegations that he sexually molested boys, rocking the multi-million dollar world of collegiate sports with more questions of sexual abuse and oversight, the university said on Sunday.

“At the direction of Chancellor (Nancy) Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately,” the school said on its website.

Fine, who had been on administrative leave since Nov. 17, is the target of a grand jury investigation into accusations that years ago he molested a former ball boy, Bobby Davis, now 39, and at least one other boy, his stepbrother Mike Lang, now 45, when they were juveniles.

Fine’s boss for the past 35 years, Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, said on Sunday he supported the firing, withdrawing support he’d extended Fine when the allegations resurfaced this month. The university first investigated and dismissed the allegations for lack of corroboration in 2005.

“I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged,” Boeheim said in a statement posted on the Syracuse Orange sports Facebook page.

“What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated,” he said. ” … I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse,” he said.

The firing came hours after ESPN reported it had an audio recording of a 2002 conversation between Davis and Fine’s wife Laurie in which she said she knew about the alleged molestation but felt unable to stop it.

Neither the tape nor any additional witnesses surfaced when the university conducted its own 2005 investigation into Davis’ allegations, Cantor said in a statement on the school website.

Now that a new probe is underway by Syracuse Police, the school has hired an independent law firm to “review our procedures in responding to the initial allegations. … We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson,” she said.

Fine has called the accusations against him “patently false in every aspect.”

LATEST JOLT

The firing was the latest jolt to major college athletics already reeling from allegations of abuse and possible cover-ups at football powerhouse Penn State, where a former assistant coach faces 40 sexual abuse charges.

Those accusations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, charged by a grand jury with sexually abusing eight young boys, took down legendary football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier.

They were fired for failing to tell police about the allegations of abuse once they learned of it years earlier. Two other Penn State officials were charged with perjury.

Syracuse is the third major American university to disclose alleged abuse since the school year began. South Carolina military college The Citadel also said it had failed to tell police about a student accused in 2007 of inappropriate behavior with children at a college summer camp.

In Syracuse, police have said they opened an investigation into Fine when Davis’ stepbrother came forward with his own allegations. The grand jury is also investigating those allegations but no criminal charges have been filed.

Fine’s lawyer, speaking on Sunday before he was fired, said his client would no longer speak publicly about the case.

“Mr. Fine will not comment on newspaper stories beyond his initial statement,” attorney Karl Sleight said in a statement in response to allegations by a third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, made on Facebook and carried in media reports on Sunday.

“Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities,” Sleight said. Attempts to reach Syracuse police and city officials on Sunday for further comment were unsuccessful.

Syracuse’s basketball team is currently undefeated and the university in upstate New York is widely heralded as having one of the top college basketball programs in the country. (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan)

Syracuse puts coach Bernie Fine on leave over abuse probe


A longtime assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University was put on administrative leave on Thursday after police reopened an investigation of alleged inappropriate behavior with a ball boy.

Associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine, in his 35th season with Syracuse, was placed on leave “in light of the new allegations and the Syracuse City Police investigation,” said Peter Englot, associate vice president of public affairs at Syracuse. The allegations were first reported in 2005.

“The associate coach vehemently denied the allegations,” Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs at Syracuse, said in a statement.

Syracuse is the third major U.S. university to disclose an incident involving alleged abuse since the announcement on Nov. 5 that a longtime assistant football coach at Penn State was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over nearly 15 years.

The Penn State scandal shocked the university and led to the dismissal of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.

A week after the Penn State disclosure, South Carolina military college The Citadel admitted that it had failed to take any action against a student accused of inappropriate behavior with children at a summer camp. The man has since been arrested and charged with sexually abusing boys.

Fine’s longtime boss, Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, has coached Syracuse for 34 years, including a national championship in 2003.

“I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years. I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would (have) been involved in any of the activities alleged. Had I seen or suspected anything, I would have taken action. Bernie has my full support,” Boeheim said in a statement on Thursday night on the university’s website.

The alleged behavior by Fine took place in the 1980s and 1990s when the victim was a juvenile. Syracuse police said the victim was Bobby Davis, now 39, a former ball boy with the team, Englot said.

The new investigation comes six years after the university conducted its own probe after hearing of the allegations in 2005. After a four-month investigation, launched after local police declined to open their own probe, the university was unable to corroborate the claims.

Quinn said the university decided to investigate in 2005 after the victim told police that “he had been subjected to inappropriate contact” by Fine, but city police declined to investigate because the statute of limitations had expired.

“If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associate coach and reported it to the police immediately,” Quinn said.

According to his Wikipedia page, Fine coached the U.S. Maccabiah team in 1993, leading them to a silver medal.