Another strange side-story to the Bernie Fine child sex abuse scandal emerged this week, when a 23-year-old from Lewiston, Maine, came forward as the former Syracuse coach's third alleged victim. The accuser, Zach Tomaselli, also has a sex abuse charge of his own.
Tomaselli, who told the Kansas State Collegian that he plans to attend the school in fall 2012, claims that Fine molested him in a Pittsburgh hotel in in 2002, when he was 13 years old. He says that he and his father met Fine at a Syracuse basketball autograph session and that Fine invited him on the team's trip soon after. In an interview with Anderson Cooper yesterday, he explained that in the Pittsburgh hotel, Fine "put a pornographic show on the television" and told him to masturbate. Fine then allegedly sat next to him on the bed and fondled him "four or five times" over the course of "several hours."
Tomaselli says he opened up about the abuse for the first time three years ago, when he met another victim of sexual abuse.
There are a few extra layers to Tomaselli's charge, however. In June, he also accused his father of molesting him when he was a minor. New York State Police conducted an investigation that they completed two weeks ago, and no charges were filed. Fred Tomaselli, Zach's father, says that his son's accusations were "totally unfounded." He also said that he used to take his son to Syracuse basketball games, but they'd sit in the upper decks of the Carrier Dome and never spoke to Fine.
Additionally, Zach Tomaselli himself is the subject of a child sex abuse accusation. He faces charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy he met while working as a day camp counselor in summer 2009. According to reports, the boy is now 14. Tomaselli was indicted last April on charges of gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, five counts of visual sexual aggression against a child, and unlawful sexual touching between Aug. 1, 2009 and Sept. 15, 2010. From an April 23 report in the Lewiston Sun Journal:
On Aug. 1 and then several times over the next two weeks, Tomaselli is accused of exposing himself to the boy. According to the court documents, that activity advanced later in the month to touching and sexual contact. Then, on Aug. 22, investigators say Tomaselli began engaging in sex acts with the boy.
According to the court document, Tomaselli continued sexually abusing the boy into late summer of 2009. In the summer of 2010, on the first of July, Tomaselli is accused once more of subjecting the boy to sexual contact.
Then, in September 2010, investigators say Tomaselli learned he was being investigated in the matter and that he attempted to convince the alleged victim to withhold information.
The report says that Tomaselli was also convicted of providing alcohol to a minor in July 2010 and paid a $500 fine.
Tomaselli hasn't flatly denied the abuse charges, but he has requested that a taped interview with a detective not be used as evidence in the trial. His lawyer says that the tape includes a "coerced confession" and that the detective "misspoke about the law" during the three-hour interview. On Cooper's show yesterday, Tomaselli was asked if he was using his accusations against Fine and his father "to explain your own alleged behavior." Tomaselli responded:
You know what, it... It does not explain and is not an excuse for touching children. And I'm not saying that I touched anybody, Anderson, but I am saying that the situation that I was in, um, the situation I put myself in to be accused, um, was because there a was great disconnect in my mind of what is an appropriate relationship in my mind between an adult and a child.
He also said as much to the AP, explaining that "past abuse by his father and Fine made it difficult for him to set proper boundaries and to understand a proper relationship between a man and a boy."
The 23-year-old has been vocal about the charges on his Facebook page. On Nov. 21, four days after the story broke, he wrote:
I was molested both by my father and SU assistant coach Bernie Fine. I have come forward with my story to the police as well as ESPN's Mark Shwartz [sic]. I am not sure whether I want to do a camera interview with ESPN but I wanted to announce this to encourage all sex abuse victims to come forward as tough as it is because we can stop other kids from this abuse.
Tomaselli told the Collegian that after hearing Fine accuser Bobby Davis's account on Colin Cowherd's ESPN radio show, he decided to contact Cowherd with his story.
"I emailed [Cowherd] and he forwarded the email to Mark Schwarz," Tomaselli said. "After talking to Schwarz on the phone, I got a phone call from a private number."
The call was from Davis, with whom Tomaselli had never spoken. The two had "a series of short conversations" in which they discussed "how Tomaselli should handle his case." Tomaselli then decided to go to the police. He met with Syracuse police officers on Nov. 23 and signed a statement.
Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that he spoke with Sgt. Joseph Gannon of Pittsburgh Police's sex assault/family crisis unit yesterday. Gannon says that the department may join the Fine investigation.
For his own charges, Tomaselli appeared in court in Auburn, Maine, today as he and his lawyer attempted to have the taped interview removed from evidence in the trial. He wrote on Facebook that "court didn't go so well":
At this point it seems like I could be headed to jail to get abused all over again... I get counseling and admit I have a lot to work on yet the district attorney wants to throw my life away and give me lifetime sex offender registry and jail time? Have you ever tried getting a job or moving on with the label "sex offender" over your head? Yet my father who abuses me for years gets off free and clear and Bernie gets to sit in his huge house watching kiddie porn? I take responsibility for putting myself in this position but this is the first time I have begun to feel a true hatred towards my two abusers.
Ex-NY coach's Maine accuser faces own abuse case [AP]
Bernie Fine accuser Zach Tomaselli interviewed by Pittsburgh Police [Post-Standard]
Prospective K-State student comes forward in Syracuse abuse scandal [Kansas State Collegian]