Back in January, once portions of his story began not adding up, Zach Tomaselli admitted he had lied about allegations that former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine sexually abused him. That Tomaselli says so again in a televised report that aired this morning on CNY Central News is nothing new. But this is: Tomaselli also says he used details given to him by Bobby Davis, another of Fine's accusers, to bolster his false allegation. And how did Tomaselli and Davis ever get in touch? Through ESPN's Mark Schwarz.
To review: Four men made allegations saying Fine had abused them. Two of them, Bobby Davis and Michael Lang, were considered "credible" by the Onondaga (N.Y.) County District Attorney. Two others, Tomaselli and prison inmate Floyd VanHooser, have admitted they made their accusations up. The only reason Fine escaped criminal prosecution is because the statute of limitations on Davis's and Lang's claims has expired.
On Wednesday, Tomaselli was sentenced to 39 months in a state prison in Maine for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy three years ago. In his email interview with CNY Central News, Tomaselli says he is a sociopath who has "never met Bernie Fine." He also says he was motivated by what CNY Central News calls "a deep dislike for the Syracuse Orange because they beat his favorite Kansas Jayhawks in the 2003 championship game."
This is what Tomaselli had to say to CNY Central News about Davis:
"It was a game to me. It was fun trying to make this story come alive. I was told by Bobby Davis what kind of porn Bernie likes. So I would add we were watching lesbian porn and going on and on. But, it didn't pan out because of my school records, there was a hole I didn't fill."
Tomaselli's credibility is obviously in tatters. Anything he's saying today he might later recant tomorrow. It's possible he could have taken Davis's remark about Fine's preference for lesbian porn and simply used it to support his story. It's possible Davis was trying to coach him. But the likeliest possibility is that Tomaselli made this part of the story up, too, since Davis has already denied giving Tomaselli any details at all:
"I never said anything like that at all to the kid," Davis told ESPN. "I just spoke to him a couple minutes. There were like two phone calls between us and they lasted a total of three to four minutes.
"It was very short," Davis said of their conversations. "I asked him all the questions. I asked him to describe Bernie's house, to describe the arena, to name the players on the team at that time. He kept changing his story with me. He couldn't name the players, couldn't describe the house. I said, 'You just need to call the police.' I called back and asked him if he called the police and he said, 'no one answered.' I said, "no one answered?' "
Note that Tomaselli went to police only after he talked to Davis, and that this is something Davis doesn't dispute. Now remember that Tomaselli's and Davis's conversation only happened because ESPN's Schwarz had put the two of them in touch, which ESPN has acknowledged and says it regrets.
So now we know two things about Mark Schwarz's role in the Bernie Fine story:
• He sat on what we now know is a "credible" story about Bernie Fine's alleged abuse for eight years, including an audio tape in which Fine's wife says Fine had done something inappropriate with one of those "credible" victims. ESPN didn't pursue this story until the network was getting beaten like a drum on Sandusky.
• Schwarz initially chose not to report Tomaselli's claim, but he moved it along by serving as an intermediary between two of his sources. As a result, a false allegation became part of the narrative, wasting everyone's time.
Schwarz hasn't exactly covered himself in glory on this one.
Bernie Fine accuser recants saying it was all a game [CNY Central News]
Bernie Fine accuser fabricated story [ESPN]