Accuser of Syracuse coach to plead guilty to sex abuse

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2011 10:53 PM
Accuser of Syracuse coach to plead guilty to sex abuse

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man accusing an ex-Syracuse basketball coach of molesting him as a boy said he himself plans to plead guilty to similar charges of fondling a boy.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, is facing charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy he met at a day camp where he was serving as a counselor.

Tomaselli told Reuters in an interview on Monday he plans on pleading guilty to the incident.

"I just wanted to come forward and get this off my chest," he said. "I'm really tired of hiding behind lawyers."

Tomaselli is one of three men who have accused Bernie Fine, former long-time assistant basketball coach to Syracuse Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, of sexual abuse. Fine, who has been fired by the university but not charged with any crime, denies the allegations of abuse.

Police in Maine arrested Tomaselli on April 11 on charges including sexual assault, exposing himself to a child and unlawful sexual touching.

Prosecutors in Maine could not be reached for comment.

Tomaselli said the victim in his case was the younger brother of a friend and he wanted to confess to the allegations because of the "years of pain and anguish" his actions will probably cause the victim.

"If I were able to say something to his family, I'd tell them I'd pray for him," he said. "He needs just as much help, strength and prayer as any sex abuse victim."

Tomaselli has alleged that when he was 13, Bernie Fine shared a Pittsburgh hotel room with him and fondled him and made him watch pornography.

Tomaselli's account helped spark a federal probe of Fine that has included searches of the former coach's house and office for pornography, financial records, travel receipts and other evidence, a law enforcement source told Reuters.

Tomaselli was asked if admitting to fondling a boy in his own life taints the credibility of his accusations against Fine.

"I dodon'tnt think it has an impact on the police investigation," he said. "I've already spoken to police about my charges and did everything but admit guilt."

Syracuse Police declined to comment on whether or not Tomaselli was forthcoming with authorities about his charges.

Tomaselli said it was sexual abuse from Fine and his now estranged father as a child that blurred the boundaries for him about determining what were appropriate relationships with between adults and children.

"I can't expect Bernie and my father to come forward to admit things if I can't admit things," he said.

Fine and Tomaselli's father could not be reached for comment on Monday.

New York state police told Reuters last week that they had investigated Tomaselli's allegations against his father and no charges were filed.

Tomaselli said he has yet to meet with his attorney to discuss what charges he'll plead guilty to in court. But by pleading guilty and agreeing to counseling, he's hoping to avoid jail time and the label of a sex offender, he said.

(Editing by Peter Bohan)