By Dustin Brown
The founder of a Forest Hills soccer league followed a pattern of repeated abuse in which he brought young boys to a Queens hotel and molested them once the lights went out, prosecutors contended at the opening of his trial Monday.
“He shared his bed with them, sometimes two at a time,” Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Appelbaum told 12 members of the jury plus four alternates Monday on the first day of Fernando Colman's trial in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. “He used these children as his sex toys.”
Colman is being tried before Justice Richard Buchter on a 19-count indictment that charges him with sexual abuse, sodomy, attempted sodomy and endangering the welfare of a child in the alleged molestation of six boys aged 10 to 13 in Queens hotel rooms two years ago.
Defense attorney Martin Geduldig countered in his opening statement the abuse was unlikely to have occurred in the presence of other boys as prosecutors allege for each of the charges.
“These are not crimes committed in a group,” Geduldig said. “There was never an instance when any of the boys was alone with my client … It's not the kind of thing you want others to know about.”
Colman, 38, was a founder and coach with the Argentina Soccer School in Forest Hills, a position of authority prosecutors contend he abused as a ruse to bring groups of players for overnight stays at two Queens hotels not far from their homes.
He is already serving a two-year sentence in Nassau County on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, based on the testimony of two of the six boys involved in the Queens case.
One of the alleged abuse victims was the first to take the stand Monday, where he recounted how Colman brought him and two other players to a Best Western off the Long Island Expressway after dinner one night because he told them his car had broken down.
“He told us to do a strip tease for him,” said the boy, now 14, who was a player in Colman's soccer league. “We just started doing it like that. It was music on the TV. He told us to take off our underwears. We took them off and started dancing.”
The boy then described how he was awakened in the night by Colman's touch as the two slept in a bed together.
“I was sleeping and I feel the hand on me,” he said. “He started touching my privates.”
The teen said he immediately elbowed Colman to make him stop, a protective gesture he repeated twice more when Colman allegedly made further attempts to touch him.
But Appelbaum contended in his opening statement that the abuse went even further in other cases, with Colman accused of sodomizing three other boys.
“He only persisted when a boy was too scared or too confused to resist,” Appelbaum said. “He wasn't going to turn this into a forcible struggle in a hotel room full of kids.”
The other five victims of the abuse were also slated to testify in the trial, which is expected to last about a week.
“This is someone they know, someone they trust who's going out of his way to show them a good time. He's manipulated the situation so it's a game, so they're giggling,” Appelbaum told jurors to explain why the boys may have appeared to acquiesce to the abuse. “Children in this situation might not react the way we as adults would react. See the situation through their eyes.”
But Geduldig made the case that the boys acted in ways inconsistent with abuse. For instance, one player who was allegedly abused early on by Colman made no effort to protect his younger brother, whom Colman is charged with violating at a later date.
“He let it go on for months because he was embarrassed,” Geduldig said. “Inexplicable.”
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.