AUBURN — Zachary Tomaselli groomed his victim slowly and carefully, using friendship and deception to win the trust and confidence of the young boy, a prosecutor said.
Tomaselli, 23, of 425 College St. pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts in an 11-count indictment, including gross sexual assault. That charge alone carries a 30-year maximum sentence. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Tomaselli will serve no more than three years and three months of a 12-year sentence, followed by six years of probation. He also pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact and two counts of visual sexual aggression against a child.
He is nationally recognized as the third accuser of former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. Tomaselli claimed he was a victim of sexual abuse when he was 13. He claims Fine invited him to accompany the team to a game in Pittsburgh and later molested him in a hotel room.
Tomaselli was freed Tuesday from Androscoggin County Jail on $2,500 unsecured bond pending sentencing in Androscoggin County Superior Court in about two months, a judge said. He is barred from having contact with the victim, his family and anyone younger than 18.
Tomaselli had been scheduled to appear Tuesday on a charge of violating a condition of release by being in the presence of a child. A witness tipped off police that he saw Tomaselli in a car with a woman and a 12-year-old boy. Since last week, the self-described sex-abuse victim and abuser has been confined to jail.
That violation and the remaining seven counts in his indictment will be dismissed because the judge accepted his plea.
Androscoggin County Deputy District Attorney Craig Turner outlined for Active-retired Justice Robert Clifford the case prosecutors would have presented had the case gone to trial.
Turner said witnesses would have testified that Tomaselli's victim was caught by his mother sneaking out of his house to meet Tomaselli, which led to the investigation.
Tomaselli had met his victim, who was younger than 14, in 2009 at a day camp where Tomaselli worked as an assistant soccer coach, Turner said. The two struck up a friendship after that, spending more and more time together. Tomaselli had created two fake Facebook identities and told the victim they were his cousins, Turner said. Tomaselli occasionally visited the victim at his home. The victim thought Tomaselli was funny. They communicated through the summer.
Then Tomaselli started talking to the victim about puberty and sexual impulses.
Tomaselli encouraged the victim to sneak out of his home and meet Tomaselli to play and hang out. They would communicate and plan their secret meetings through Facebook. They would meet at the parking lot of a church near Tomaselli's home. Sometimes, they'd just sit in Tomaselli's car. Sometimes, they'd get something to eat, Turner said.
At one point, the two engaged in sexual intercourse. The victim said he didn't like it. It happened only once, Turner said.
In an interview with a Lewiston police detective, Tomaselli denied he'd done anything wrong, but admitted near the end of the interview to engaging in sexual activity with the victim. The interview was the subject of a pretrial motion. Tomaselli had sought to have his statements kept from trial, but a judge reviewed the taped interview and said she would allow it. Around the same time, Tomaselli admitted to a reporter in Maine that he'd committed the abuse charged in the April indictment.
In November, Tomaselli accused Fine of molesting him in 2002. A Syracuse prosecutor has voiced skepticism of Tomaselli's accusations against Fine, but that did not stop Tomaselli from filing a lawsuit against the former assistant coach on Dec. 7. A federal investigation continues. Fine was fired after Tomaselli and two others went public with their accusations.
Fine has denied the charges.