SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A third accuser has come forward in the investigation of child molestation allegations against an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University.
Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said Sunday that he told police that associate head coach Bernie Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He said Fine touched him “multiple” times in that one incident.
The Post-Standard in Syracuse first reported his accusations earlier Sunday.
Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.
Syracuse police declined comment. A phone call and email to the office of Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick were not immediately returned.
Tomaselli’s father, meanwhile, maintains his son is lying.
Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine, who has called the allegations “patently false.”
Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine’s home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.
Davis’ stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.
Syracuse placed Fine on paid administrative leave when the accusations surfaced.
No one answered the door at the Fine home Sunday. His attorneys released a statement saying Fine would not comment beyond his initial statement.
“Any comment from him would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims,” attorneys Donald Martin and Karl Sleight said. “Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities.”
Pete Moore, director of athletic communications at the university, said head coach Jim Boeheim “is not commenting further on the subject at this time.”
Tomaselli said the scandal at Penn State involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky prompted him to come forward. Sandusky is accused in a grand jury indictment of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.
“It was the Sandusky stuff that came out that really made me think about it,” Tomaselli said in the phone interview. “A lot of people were slamming ESPN and Bobby for saying anything. I wanted to come out. … It made me sick to see all that support for Fine at that point. I was positive he was guilty.”
Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that he didn’t ask Syracuse police or federal authorities for help in getting the criminal charges dismissed against him in Maine.
Tomaselli was arrested in April on 11 warrants charging gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, five counts of visual sexual aggression against a child and unlawful sexual touching and unlawful sexual contact, Lewiston police said Sunday. They did not say what led to the charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Tomaselli told the Post-Standard he met Fine after he and his father, Fred, attended a Syracuse autograph session on campus in late 2001.
The newspaper reported that Fine later called Tomaselli’s parents to arrange for Tomaselli to go to Pittsburgh with the athletic department staff on a chartered bus, spend the night in Fine’s hotel room and attend the team’s game on Jan. 22, 2002.
Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that he had dinner with the team, then returned to the hotel room where he accused Fine of putting porn on the TV and fondling him in bed.
Tomaselli attended the basketball game the next day, sitting several rows behind the bench, and rode the chartered bus back to Syracuse, the newspaper reported.
“The one time there was multiple incidents in that one night, but there was only one night that he ever sexually abused me,” Tomaselli told the AP.
However, during a phone interview with the AP, Fred Tomaselli said: “I’m 100 percent sure that Bernie Fine was never in contact with Zach. He never went to Pittsburgh to a game, never been to that arena.”
“I brought him to a couple of games in Syracuse. We always sat in the nosebleed section and left after the game. He never stayed for any overnighters and never even got within shouting distance of Bernie.”
On Friday, federal authorities carried out a search at his Fine’s suburban Syracuse home but declined to comment on what they were looking for.
New York State Police spokesman Jack Keller said troopers were called to assist the U.S. attorney’s office at the search. At least six police vehicles were parked on the street during the search, which lasted around nine hours. Officers carted away three file cabinets and a computer for further examination.
Associated Press writers Glenn Adams in Augusta, Maine and Amy Fiscus in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)