Bernie Fine accuser files suit against former coach in western Pa. court

By Jon Campisi | Dec 9, 2011

A 23-year-old Maine man who alleges he was sexually abused by fired Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine has filed a lawsuit against the accused molester in a Pennsylvania court.

Zachary Tomaselli, who himself has admitted to having done "harm" to a child, took to the airwaves Thursday, claiming that he and Fine had watched pornography together before Fine fondled the young man in Pittsburgh, Pa. hotel room in 2002.

Tomaselli was a young teenager at the time.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. A copy of the complaint was posted to the website of Jeff Anderson & Associates, the Minnesota law firm representing Tomaselli.

The complaint was jointly filed by Anderson and Pittsburgh, Pa. attorney Alan H. Perer, of the firm Swensen, Perer and Kontos.

According to a report on CNN, Tomaselli, the third man to go publicly with claims that he was molested by Fine, has been discredited by Onondaga County, NY District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who has said that while there is evidence that Fine may have sexually abused minors, it doesn’t appear Tomaselli was one such victim.

Nevertheless, Tomaselli held a news conference with his attorneys Thursday to air his claims that Fine had abused him.

In a prepared statement he read to the media during the news conference, which was also posted to his legal team’s website, Tomaselli said he was filing the lawsuit “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.”

In his statement, Tomaselli said his abuse occurred after Fine invited him to attend a Syracuse University road basketball game in Pennsylvania.

“At the time I wasn’t even able to understand and process it as abuse, but now I know what harm he has done to me and others,” the statement read. “I also have been reading and learning how Bernie Fine has denied doing this to me and others so I made the decision to go public after Thanksgiving because I knew he was lying and I believe [he] is dangerous and could hurt other kids.”

The news conference took a slight turn when Tomaselli decided to air his own apologies in relation to having harmed a child.

“I know I have done harm to a child as an adult and for that I am deeply sorry,” he said without elaborating.
CNN reported that Tomaselli is facing 11 criminal charges, including gross sexual assault. The alleged assaults were perpetrated against a Maine boy who was 13 in 2009, according to CNN.

As for his lawsuit, Tomaselli claims that the abuse occurred when he was 13 years old.

“Zachary was too young to have given any consent, and Fine’s abuse was in fact unwanted and has caused substantial harm to him,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit contains two counts: one of childhood sexual abuse and the other of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

For each count, Tomaselli seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000 plus interest and related court fees.

The lawsuit makes claims that Fine sexually molested a grade-schooler in the late 1970s, another minor in the 1980s, (including at a hotel on a Syracuse basketball away game), and then Tomaselli in 2002.

Fine, who was an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University for more than three decades, was terminated from his position in November over the child sex-abuse allegations, according to news reports.

The Syracuse case is the second such scandal to have captivated the nation in as many months.

In early November, former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually molesting a slew of young boys during a 10-year period.

Sandusky is facing criminal charges in connection with his alleged abuse of 10 boys, most of whom he allegedly met at The Second Mile, a Pennsylvania-based youth organization that the former defensive coordinator founded in the late 1970s.

Sandusky, who was re-arrested on additional charges this week – the initial grand jury presentment charged him with abusing eight boys, but issued a new report Tuesday that added two more young men – has since posted bail, and will remain at home under electronic surveillance.

As for Fine, the former Syracuse coach has not been formally charged with any crimes, since New York prosecutors have said while credible, the sex abuse allegations would be up against an expired statute of limitations, according to news reports.

News reports have stated that Fine has maintained his innocence, saying that all of the allegations against him are false.

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