By Tien-Shun Lee
The coach of a Forest Hills soccer league was sentenced to up to 66 years in prison for sexually abusing six young boys during team trips that involved overnight stays at two Queens hotels, District Attorney Richard Brown announced last Thursday.
Fernando Colman, 37, of Elmont, L.I. is a founder and former coach of the Argentina Soccer School at 67-50 Thornton Ave. in Forest Hills. He was tried before a jury in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens and convicted on May 15 of sodomy, sex abuse, attempted sodomy and endangering the welfare of a child.
“The defendant preyed upon children entrusted to his care and destroyed their innocence to satisfy his own sexual desires,” Brown said. “The crimes were all the more offensive because the victims were children. I hope the severe punishment imposed by the court brings solace to the children and their families.”
During Colman's 10-day trial, presided over by Justice Richard Buchter, six boys ages 10 to 13 testified against the soccer coach. One boy said Colman told him and other boys to do a striptease for him and later woke the boy from his sleep by touching his private parts. Another boy testified that Colman had kissed him on the lips and sodomized him.
Investigation of the soccer coach began when one of the boys told his mother that he had been sexually molested by Colman at the coach's home, District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Other incidents of sexual abuse occurred between January and April of 2001 at the Best Western Hotel at 113-10 Corona Ave. in Flushing and the Clarion Hotel at 94-00 Ditmars Blvd. in East Elmhurst, the DA said. Colman and the boys stayed in the hotels from Saturdays to Sundays, between soccer games.
Colman's defense attorney, Martin Gedulig, said he thought the sentencing of 66 years in prison was excessive when compared with other defendants who were convicted of similar crimes in New York state. He planned on filing an appeal within the next 30 days.
“Some priests have been arrested and charged with certain similar crimes they carried out over several years, and their sentence was not over 20 years,” Gedulig said.
Gedulig said media coverage of the trial and Colman's rejection of a plea bargain may have played a part in the severe sentencing. Colman would have been sentenced to 12 years in prison if he had pleaded guilty, the defense attorney said.
Colman's trial was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Kenneth Appelbaum and Marybeth Ayres of the DA's Special Victims Bureau under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Marjory Fisher and Executive Assistant District Attorney for Major Crimes Gregory Lasak.
Last year, Colman was acquitted of 12 felony counts after being tried in a Nassau County court. He was convicted of two child endangerment misdemeanors for which he was serving a two-year term in jail prior to and during his Kew Gardens trial.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.