A 23 year-old Maine man filed a civil lawsuit on Thursday in Pittsburgh against former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, claiming that Fine sexually abused him in a Pittsburgh hotel room at the age of 13. Zachary Tomaselli says that Fine brought him to Pittsburgh in 2002 to watch Syracuse play the University of Pittsburgh, but Fine sexually assaulted him while the two shared a hotel room.
Jeffery Anderson, Tomaselli's attorney, said that the alleged abuse caused Tomaselli to suffer in secrecy and shame for years. "And he pretty much blamed himself, as so many survivors of abuse by authority figures do," said Anderson, "and didn't even see it as abuse, didn't process it as abuse, just thought he had really done something wrong."
Tomaselli himself is charged in Maine with molesting a teenage boy and indicated earlier this week that he plans on pleading guilty. "I know I have done harm to a child as an adult, and for that I am deeply sorry and need to be truthful," Tomaselli wrote.
Tomaselli is the third person to accuse Bernie Fine of sexual abuse. Bobby Davis attempted to report abuse for nine years, including coming forward on ESPN, but it wasn't until a top law enforcement official announced publicly on Wednesday that he believed Davis that his story was considered credible. Michael Lang came forward with abuse allegations shortly after Davis.
On November 27th, ESPN ran a tape in which a woman it identified as Fine's wife tells David that she knew "everything" that went on.
Anderson said that Tomaselli lived with the incident for years until he told a trusted friend in 2008, and that friend clarified to him that he was abused. He said that Tomaselli was too afraid at first to come out to law enforcement. "[I]f Bobby Davis and Lang had not come forward, Zach would probably still be suffering in secrecy, silence, and shame," said Anderson. "But for their courage in breaking the silence, he's here. And but for their courage in breaking the silence in coming forward, he's now getting help and counseling."
Anderson said that while the statute of limitations in New York expired five years after Davis and Lang say they were molested, the federal limitations in place since 2002 allow a victim to bring charges until he's 25.
Onondaga County (NY) District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said that while he believes there is evidence to back up Davis and Lang, Fine likely didn't harm Tomaselli. Tomaselli's father also said that he believes his son's allegations to be false.
Anderson said that Tomaselli is working with criminal investigators, but wouldn't name with which agencies he had spoken.