Jason Whitlock had Bernie Fine's third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, on his podcast today. The 23-year-old spoke clearly and in detail about his memories of the two occasions he spent time with Bernie Fine, one of which he says involved sexual abuse. During the hour-long segment, Tomaselli told Whitlock that he believes ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz leaked his story to the Syracuse Post-Standard after it became clear that ESPN wouldn't run the story. Chronologically, though, the leak could have also come from either alleged Fine victim Bobby Davis or the Syracuse Police.
If it was Schwarz, though, then this is yet another strike against ESPN's handling of Fine story over the years. Schwarz was the ESPN reporter who spent eight years not reporting the story that a Syracuse ballboy had accused assistant coach Bernie Fine of molesting him. Tomaselli says that Schwarz, who contacted him independently, asked repeatedly for "physical evidence" to corroborate his story, and never ended up reporting on it himself. Fine's third accuser now suggests that with him, they passed off reporting on another potential Fine abuse story.
In other words, it's possible that ESPN was too chickenshit to do this story, and so they wanted the local paper to jump in first.
When Tomaselli went to the police to accuse his father of sexual assault last June, he said, he wasn't considering telling them about Fine's alleged abuse in part because he thought that the statute of limitations would render his accusation useless. But, according to Tomaselli, his good friend Rose Ryan—whom he claims to have told of the Fine abuse two years ago—was pressuring him to come forward about Fine as well. When he heard about the Jerry Sandusky investigation last month, and then about Fine's two accusers, he said, he decided it was time.
Tomaselli's story suggests that, after he first came forward as Fine's third accuser in an email to Colin Cowherd on Friday, Nov. 18, someone he'd told his story to decided to leak it to the Syracuse Post-Standard. Five minutes after he sent the email to Cowherd, Tomaselli told Whitlock, he received an email from ESPN's Schwarz. They spoke on the phone, and Tomaselli told him his story. He says that Schwarz kept asking for "physical evidence" to prove his story. Schwarz also put him in touch with Davis. (ESPN VP Vince Doria now says that "putting two sources in touch with each other is something we do not normally do.") After talking to Davis on Saturday, the 19th, Tomaselli decided to go to the Syracuse police with his story. He gave his official statement to Syracuse police on Sunday and was informed that they hoped to press federal charges against Fine.
A week later, on Saturday, Nov. 26, a reporter from the Post-Standard called Tomaselli to get his comment for a story on his accusation that they said would run the following morning. He'd never contacted the paper, and suspects that Schwarz is the one who'd leaked it:
My honest belief is that Mark Schwarz went to ESPN and I believe that ESPN didn't want to run the story; that they didn't feel like it met their standard of reporting, as they keep saying. And I believe they were already taking heat at that point. So I believe Mark wanted the story to get out, but he couldn't. I believe—he was the only one that knew my full story, and I truly believe he leaked my story to the Syracuse Post-Standard to allow that story to get out so he could report on it.
At that point, of course, Davis and the Syracuse police also knew his version of events—and Syracuse district attorney William Fitzpatrick has already accused the police force of leaking a witness's affidavit to the press during his department's investigation. Still, Tomaselli points out, the Syracuse detectives who took his statement police had repeatedly warned him not to go to the press during the investigation and even says that they told him he'd be arrested if he did: "They were very, very angry at me," he told Whitlock.
"I don't want to go out and blame Schwarz here," Tomaselli said, "but that is the only thing that I can see possible.
"It's either the police, Bobby, or him, and to me he's just the most likely person," he added.
Meanwhile, Tomaselli's own sex abuse investigation continues back in Maine. He told Whitlock that his alleged victim is his "best friend's little brother," and that the two "got into an inappropriate relationship over a long period of time, before anything happened." In Maine, Tomaselli says, the district attorney has offered a particularly harsh deal:
He is actually offering me just the harshest deal that my lawyer has ever seen in a case like this.... I'm only being offered jail time—up to three years of jail—and lifetime sex offender list registry, which is something to me that feels like... I'm not gonna have a shot at life if I'm on the sex offender list for the rest of my life. Even though I've been getting counseling for the better part of the summer since I got arrested since i realized, hey, I got a problem, I need to start working on this. The DA doesn't seem like he's gonna give me a second chance.
Tomaselli says that his coming forward has nothing to do with an intention to make money or to avoid jail.
"I'm glad I stopped myself before I became a Bernie and just would prey among whomever I could find, in coaching in stuff," he said. "I'm glad I stopped myself before I became a real monster that my father and Bernie was."
He added, "I'm still learning what's normal and what's not."