Maine man 3rd to accuse Syracuse coach of abuse

2:01 PM, Nov 28, 2011   |    comments
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LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A man from Maine is now the third person to accuse a Syracuse University basketball coach of sexually abusing him as a child.

Late on Sunday officials at Syracuse University released the following statement.

"At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately."

Earlier this month, two men accused Associate Head Coach Bernie Fine of sexually abusing them when they were ball boys for the team in the 1970s. On Wednesday, Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston told police that Fine abused him as well.

Tomaselli says the abuse happened nearly ten years ago, when he was thirteen years old. He says he and his father met Bernie Fine at an autograph session. He says Fine then invited him to an away game in Pittsburgh, and that's where he says Fine molested him in a hotel room. He says that in 2002, he stayed in a hotel room with Bernie Fine the night before that game, and that Fine inappropriately touched him and forced him to perform sexual acts. Tomaselli says he didn't understand that he was being abused.

"I didn't think that it was anything not normal at the time," Tomaselli told NEWS CENTER. "I thought that this was something a normal adult would do with a child, especially because my father had been doing it to me for a few months by then."

Tomaselli became estranged from his father when he was about nineteen. He says that's when he realized his experiences with his father and Bernie Fine were abuse. He shared his story with a friend three years ago, but didn't consider reporting it to police until the Penn State case broke.

"I definitely didn't actually think about that until the Sandusky case came out and I realized, 'Hey, if other victims had stepped forward and had the guts to step forward before, that there are countless children that would have not been molested by Sandusky.'" Tomaselli said. "And I feel there could be many other victims in this case as well."

Tomaselli gave a statement to Syracuse Police on Wednesday. Two days later, local, state, and federal authorities carried out a search warrant on Bernie Fine's home.

Tomaselli's father, Fred Tomaselli, denies ever abusing his son. He also says his son is lying about ever meeting Bernie Fine.

"He never met Bernie Fine, I've never talked to or met Bernie Fine," Fred Tomaselli said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. "At the time, I did bring him to a couple games in the 2003/2004 timeframe in Syracuse, and we always had nosebleed seats and always left immediately after the game. We never stayed overnight, never let him do his own trip, never went to an autograph session, never went to the game in Pittsburgh. It's all totally fabricated for whatever reason."

Tomaselli has also faced charges of sexually abusing a child. He wouldn't get into the details of those accusations, but he says his own history being abused has made it difficult to understand an appropriate relationship between an adult and a child.

"The abuse from my father and Bernie Fine lead to a lot of issues with me setting boundaries with children."

Tomaselli hopes that though counseling and telling his story, he can heal, and encourage other victims to come forward.


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