Ex-Syracuse Coach Bernie Fine Sued Over Sex Abuse Claims

Former Syracuse University assistant men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine was sued by a man alleging he was sexually abused as a 13-year-old in a Pittsburgh hotel room.

Zach Tomaselli, who emerged in recent weeks as the third person to accuse Fine of sexual abuse, filed the civil lawsuit today in Pennsylvania state court in Pittsburgh. Fine is named in the case as the sole defendant.

Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, whom police have charged with child sexual abuse, was released from Centre County jail this afternoon after posting $250,000 bail. He will be confined to his home with electronic monitoring, according to his attorney, Joseph Amendola, and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.

Syracuse fired Fine, in his 36th season at the Upstate New York university, on Nov. 27 after he was accused of sexually abusing two former ball boys. At a press conference in Syracuse yesterday, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said Fine won’t face charges related to those allegations because the claims are too old to prosecute.

One of the former ball boys, Bobby Davis, now 39, contacted police in 2002 and said Fine abused him when he was in seventh grade. The other ex-ball boy, Davis’s stepbrother Mike Lang, now 45, made his allegations this year, saying Fine abused him when Lang was in fifth or sixth grade, according to ESPN.

Pittsburgh Hotel

Tomaselli said last month that his desire to support Fine’s other accusers prompted him to come forward with accusations that Fine molested him in 2002 in the Pittsburgh hotel. Federal authorities are investigating those allegations, and evidence related to the case will be turned over to the U.S. attorney and defense lawyers, Fitzpatrick said yesterday.

Karl Sleight, an attorney for Fine, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Tomaselli’s complaint. Donald Martin, another attorney for Fine, declined to comment and said he knew nothing about the lawsuit.

In a statement yesterday, the lawyers said they were looking forward to reviewing “exculpatory materials” in the case as it appeared that there is proof Tomaselli fabricated the allegation.

Maine Case

Tomaselli is facing sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, the Associated Press reported. He told the AP he plans to plead guilty in that case. Justin Leary, an attorney for Tomaselli in the Maine case, said today in a phone interview that plea negotiations in the case are “ongoing.”

Sandusky, 67, posted bail of $200,000 in real estate and $50,000 in a certified check from his wife, Dorothy, according to court records. He has been accused of sexually assaulting 10 boys dating back to the 1990s. He denies wrongdoing.

Dorothy Sandusky said today in an e-mailed statement that the new allegations against her husband were false.

“As the mother of six children, I have been devastated by these accusations,” Dorothy Sandusky, who is known as Dottie, said in the statement. “We don’t know why these young men have made these false accusations, but we want everyone to know they are untrue.”

She said she continues “to believe in Jerry’s innocence and all the good things he has done.”

Two Schools

Fitzpatrick addressed the incidents at both Penn State and Syracuse in his comments yesterday, saying that any comparisons between the two schools would be inaccurate and unfair as there was no coverup or institutional failure at Syracuse.

The Sandusky case led to the firings of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid criticism they didn’t do enough to stop Sandusky’s behavior. Paterno and Spanier haven’t been accused of criminal wrongdoing.

Two other Penn State officials, athletics director Timothy Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz, have been charged with perjury and failure to report allegations of sex assault against Sandusky. Both men are scheduled to appear in court next week.

The Fine case is Tomaselli v. Fine, 11-025439, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (Pittsburgh). The Sandusky case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Sandusky, MJ-49201-cr-0000636-2011, Magisterial District Court 49-2-01, Centre County (State College).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE