ESPN is reporting that Zach Tomaselli, the third man to accuse Bernie Fine of committing acts of child molestation, has now stated that he doctored emails and lied to the police.
Tomaselli still claims that he was molested by Fine but that he made repeated false statements in an effort “to tip the scale of evidence against Fine.” This revelation comes on the heels of news that Floyd VanHooser, the fourth Bernie Fine accuser, has admitted to completely fabricating his claim against Fine. VanHooser, who is currently serving a prison sentence, has stated that he falsely accused Fine of child molestation in retaliation against the former coach for not giving him funds to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent him on the criminal charges that landed him in prison.
Now two of the four accusers against Fine have admitted to falsifying molestation allegations. It is not uncommon in sex offense cases against high profile individuals to see accusers make false accusations–especially when the case receives heavy media attention. Whether induced by the prospect of a lucrative civil action or other improper motive, accusations made after a story like this initially breaks are fraught with peril. Many times, in the interest of wanting to believe, the media as well as law enforcement will fail to properly scrutinize these subsequent allegations. The end result of this is an improper accumulation of charges against an individual that serves to unduly strengthen the prosecution’s case. From a prosecutor’s standpoint, multiple allegations lend credibility to their accusers who independently may not appear to be so credible. Therefore, when criminal defense attorneys defend these cases, careful attention needs to be paid to the allegations made subsequent to the initial news reports.
In sex offense cases like these where (1) the case receives media attention; and (2) multiple allegations are made against our client, we must thoroughly investigate the sequence of events between the time of the media reports and the time the accusers then come forward. We will investigate whether these subsequent accusers first contacted attorneys, have had recent financial difficulties, or have any other improper motive to fabricate allegations against our client. We often will create a timeline tracking these accusers from the time of the news reports to the time they make their statement to the police. We often find that what these accusers do during this time period is very telling in determining whether a false accusation has been made.
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