Lewiston man says charges against him are because of ex-Syracuse coach’s abuse

Posted Dec. 01, 2011, at 4:03 p.m.
Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston told police Wednesday in a signed statement that Syracuse University associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine invited him to an away game in Pittsburgh in January 2002 when he was 13 and molested him in a hotel there.
Michael York | AP
Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston told police Wednesday in a signed statement that Syracuse University associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine invited him to an away game in Pittsburgh in January 2002 when he was 13 and molested him in a hotel there.

AUBURN, Maine — A man who accused former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting him in 2002 is seeking to suppress what his lawyer maintains was a coerced confession in his own molestation case.

Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston faces charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy he met at a day camp where he was serving as a counselor. The boy is now 14.

The 23-year-old Tomaselli wants a judge to prevent a videotaped interview with a detective from being used as evidence at his trial. Closing arguments on his motion were held Thursday in Superior Court, but the judge didn’t immediately rule.

Defense lawyer Justin Leary said a confession was coerced by a detective who misspoke about the law during an interview that lasted more than three hours.

Assistant District Attorney Nick Worden said the detective was merely questioning Tomaselli’s take on the events, which he described as “essentially an unbelievable story.”

Tomaselli has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges that included gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, unlawful sexual contact, unlawful sexual touching and unlawful sexual contact. The case is set for trial next year.

Tomaselli declined to address the Maine charges after the hearing. But he has said 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.

Tomaselli became the third man to level sexual abuse allegations against Fine when he told police in Syracuse last week that Fine first molested him in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002. Fine was subsequently fired.

Tomaselli also has said that he was abused by his father, Fred, and that he went to police about it in June in upstate New York. Fred Tomaselli told The Associated Press that an investigation by New York State Police was completed two weeks ago. “It was totally unfounded,” Fred Tomaselli said.

New York State Police spokesman Lt. Glenn Miner confirmed the probe into Zach Tomaselli’s allegations and said charges weren’t filed. He said police were prohibited by law from providing details because no charges were filed.

Fine has denied Tomaselli’s allegations and those of the other accusers, and Fred Tomaselli has said his son is lying. But Zach Tomaselli said he’s still willing to discuss his allegations of abuse in hopes that his story serves as a cautionary tale about pedophilia.

“I’m trying to get my story across as much as I can so that this doesn’t happen again. It’s been very, very draining, very tiring, and very painful and disheartening,” said Tomaselli, who’s receiving counseling while living with his grandmother.

Associated Press writers Mary Esch in Albany, N.Y, and John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y, contributed to this story.

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