MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It is an old story, but its ending is still unwritten.
A Long Island man who pleaded guilty to abusing youngsters 25 years ago says he was wrongly convicted and is now hoping for exoneration by the Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Rice reopened the case in August 2010, but the man whose fate hangs in the balance, Jesse Friedman, explained exclusively to CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Wednesday why he knows he’s innocent.
“I’ve been waiting 25 years for an opportunity to prove my innocence,” Friedman said.
Friedman, now 42 years old, hopes the story ends in exoneration 21 months after an appeals court urged Nassau prosecutors to reopen his case, which shook the quiet suburb of Great Neck, citing a “reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongly convicted.”
Rice has yet to decide his fate.
“I have never, ever sexually abused in any way, any child ever. None of the crimes for which I was charged ever occurred,” Friedman said.
The case made shocking headlines in the late 1980s. Friedman’s father, Arnold, who ran a computer class in their Great Neck basement, was charged with molesting more than a dozen young boys in the classes. The boys said Jesse, then a teenager, participated. He, too, was arrested and pleaded guilty, tearfully telling the judge his father also abused him.
Privately, however, Friedman denied the charges and has long contended he only pleaded guilty to avoid an inevitable life sentence at trial.
“The idea of a fair trial was an impossibility,” Friedman said. “I had no viable other option. I was faced with 243 crimes which I did not commit.”
Friedman served 13 years and is free now, but wants his name cleared. The Oscar-nominated documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” uncovered suggestive tactics used by police to elicit the flood of charges from children — tactics the court called flawed.
Now, Friedman’s legal team has set up a hotline, seeking new ledes in the old case. The hotline number is 516-660-4385.
“The methods used for Jesse’s conviction and Jesse’s arrest was wrong and this is an opportunity to make it right,” private investigator Jay Salpeter said.
Friedman isn’t the only one now awaiting the DA’s decision. Some of the victims, now adults, stand by their claims that Jesse molested them.
Sal Marinello represented four of them.
“They were sexually abused during periods of time and they also indicated the son was involved,” Marinello said.
It’s all being weighed by the DA’s expert panel. Friedman is married now and must remain registered as a sex offender.
“I’m not free to have gainful employment. I was denied admission to college,” he said.
The DA has said its investigation will be robust and complete, but won’t comment on when it will end.
Friedman’s father, Arnold, killed himself in prison in 1995.
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