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Ex-Syracuse coach sued by man who says he was abused here

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Friday, Dec. 9, 2011
 

A man from Maine sued former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine in Allegheny County on Thursday, a day after Fine's attorneys said the man is lying about being sexually abused by Fine in Pittsburgh nearly a decade ago.

Zachary Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, appeared at a Downtown news conference with his attorneys and read a one-page statement to reporters. He did not take questions, but his attorneys provided some detail about the assault he says took place in a hotel room while Syracuse was in town to play the University of Pittsburgh.

"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," Tomaselli said. "I was sexually abused by Bernie Fine after he invited me to a Syracuse game."

Tomaselli is one of three men accusing Fine -- who was fired Nov. 27 -- of molesting them when they were boys. Only Tomaselli's claims are eligible for prosecution within the statute of limitations.

Fine, 65, has denied the allegations, and Onondaga County, N.Y., District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said on Wednesday that he has given federal investigators evidence that could be considered "exculpatory," which means it works in Fine's favor. Fitzpatrick's spokesman said yesterday the DA had no further comment.

Jeffrey Anderson, one of Tomaselli's attorneys, said he was unsure what evidence Fitzpatrick had, but if it involves travel records, he said Tomaselli did not fly with the team to Pittsburgh -- he took a bus, "presumably with boosters or team helpers."

Fine's lawyers say Tomaselli's public school attendance records and the basketball team's travel records appear to prove Tomaselli is lying.

"It appears now that there is proof that Tomaselli fabricated this allegation," Fine's lawyers, Donald Martin and Karl Sleight, said in a joint statement on Wednesday. They did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Anderson said he filed the lawsuit in response to Martin and Sleight's remarks.

"The statements made (Wednesday) that Zach's claim is false is simply out of line," Anderson said.

The seven-page lawsuit filed in Common Pleas Court provides few details about what Tomaselli says occurred in a hotel room in 2002 when he was 13 years old.

Anderson said Tomaselli met Fine at an autograph-signing event, and Fine invited him to travel to the Jan. 22 game at Pitt.

Anderson said the abuse occurred the night before the game. He said he did not know the specific hotel, but it was where the Syracuse team stayed. He said Fine showed Tomaselli pornography and sexually abused the boy.

Tomaselli is charged in Maine with molesting a teenage boy. He said this week he expects to eventually plead guilty, and apologized for that incident as part of his statement.

Pittsburgh police learned of the local allegations when Tomaselli went public last month. Police said the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of New York is investigating.

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