Accuser of Syracuse coach pleads guilty to sex abuse

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2011 11:58 AM
Accuser of Syracuse coach pleads guilty to sex abuse

By Aman Ali

(Reuters) - A man who accused former Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting him faces up to three years in jail after he pleaded guilty in Maine this week to charges of abusing a 13-year-old boy.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine entered a plea deal on Tuesday that limited his possible prison time for sexual abuse of the boy at a Maine day camp where he worked as a counselor, according to a spokesperson for the Superior Court in Auburn, Maine.

He pleaded guilty to gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and two counts of visual sexual aggression.

When he is sentenced in February at a date yet to be set, Tomaselli will face no more than 3 years and three months in prison followed by six years of probation rather than the 12 years in prison that he might have received under the original nearly one dozen criminal counts.

Tomaselli was released on $2,500 bail.

Reached for comment, Tomaselli told Reuters he was under a gag order and could not say anything about the case.

Tomaselli is one of three men who say they were molested as children by Fine, who was fired as a former long-time assistant coach to Syracuse Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim.

Fine, who has not charged with any crime, denies the allegations. Tomaselli's father, also accused by his son of molestation, has said his son is lying.

Tomaselli said he was 13 in 2002 when Fine allegedly invited him to a Syracuse away game in Pittsburgh and in their hotel room made him watch pornography and helped him masturbate.

Tomaselli filed a civil lawsuit against Fine last week saying he suffered "severe mental anguish and horror."

Earlier this month, the Syracuse state prosecutor publicly disclosed some holes in Tomaselli's story including no record of a bus Tomaselli claims he rode to get to the game.

Tomaselli's story triggered a federal investigation of Fine.

Tomaselli, who was arrested in April for sexually assaulting the 13-year-old, said he wanted to plea guilty because he feels sorrow for the pain he inflicted on the child, who is the younger brother of a friend.

Last week, Lewiston police arrested Tomaselli for violating the terms of his bail that barred him from coming in contact with children under the age of 18. He had been seen driving a minor in his vehicle, police said.

A judge on Tuesday dismissed the violation charge and seven others as part of Tomaselli's plea deal. The plea agreement also barred him from contact with the victim, the victim's family and anyone under the age of 18.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)