Accuser files lawsuit in Syracuse case
Zachary R. Tomaselli, left, reads a statement regarding his civil suit against Bernard Fine as he speaks to reporters with his lawyers, Jeff Anderson and Alan H. Perer.
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A Maine man whose claims of sexual abuse at the hands of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine were discredited by a New York prosecutor filed suit Thursday against Mr. Fine in Pittsburgh, alleging that the coach molested him in a hotel room here before a 2002 Pitt game.
Zachary Tomaselli, 23, and his lawyers appeared at a Downtown news conference at which Mr. Tomaselli read a statement charging abuse by Mr. Fine when he was 13.
He said he brought the suit to support Bobby Davis, another accuser whom Mr. Fine has accused of lying. Mr. Tomaselli also said he came forward because of a "need to be truthful" following his own arrest on charges of molesting a teenage boy.
He didn't take questions Thursday but has said in other media interviews that he expects to plead guilty in that case.
"I am taking this action to support the other men that have gone public and to do everything I can to protect other kids from harm by Bernie Fine and powerful men like him," Mr. Tomaselli read. "At the time, I wasn't even able to understand and process it as abuse, and now I know what harm he has done to me and others. I know I have done harm to a child as an adult, and for that I am deeply sorry and need to be truthful."
The suit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, came one day after Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he has evidence, including travel records, that could disprove Mr. Tomaselli's claim. Mr. Fine's lawyers also said the travel records show he's lying.
Mr. Tomaselli's lawyer, Jeff Anderson, said he wanted to wait in bringing suit until a federal investigation of his client's claims is done but chose to file because Mr. Fine's lawyers' statements were "simply just out of line."
Mr. Fitzpatrick said he believes there is evidence that Mr. Fine sexually assaulted two former Syracuse ball boys, Mr. Davis and Mike Lang, in the 1980s. He said he can't prosecute, however, because the statute of limitations has run out.
Mr. Anderson said the Pennsylvania and federal statute of limitations could still apply in his client's case.
Mr. Tomaselli's allegations are under investigation in New York by the U.S. attorney's office and the U.S. Secret Service, which helps investigate child exploitation cases.
Mr. Anderson refuted Mr. Fitzpatrick's assertion that records don't support his client's story. He said he believes the district attorney was talking about flight records for the Syracuse team that presumably show Mr. Tomaselli wasn't on the plane. But Mr. Anderson said that's because Mr. Tomaselli rode a bus to Pittsburgh with boosters and other team supporters.
The complaint filed by Mr. Tomaselli is sparse on details, including the name of the Pittsburgh hotel where the abuse is alleged to have occurred. Mr. Anderson said he doesn't know which hotel it was, but he said it was the same one the team used.
Mr. Anderson said Mr. Fine met Mr. Tomaselli at an autograph-signing and asked his father if he could take him to Pittsburgh. Mr. Anderson said Mr. Fine spent the night in the hotel room with Mr. Tomaselli, showed him pornography and molested him "repeatedly." He did not describe the assaults. He said he would not discuss the case in detail and said "authorities" in New York had told his client not to talk about the investigation.
Mr. Tomaselli's father, who is estranged from his son, has said he doesn't believe the abuse took place.
First Published December 9, 2011 12:00 am