MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man who served more than a decade in prison for sexual abuse he said he did not commit will learn whether he will be exonerated later this month.
It has been 25 years since Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty to molesting 14 boys with his father during computer classes in the Friedmans’ house in Great Neck. And it has been three years since a federal court found that he was likely wrongly convicted.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said they will decide whether to exonerate Friedman by the end of June.
Friedman, who is married, served 13 years in prison for the sexual abuse but was freed when the case was reopened. He appeared in State Supreme Court in Mineola on Tuesday as he continues his quest to clear his name.
Some of the boys, who are now in their 30s, have recently come forward to say they were never abused.
Friedman, 44, said if he is cleared of the crimes, he can start his life.
“I can work on a career. I could go back to school. I can start a family,” Friedman told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “I’m not even sure what that’s going to be like. It’s a whole realm of life and feeling and freedom and liberty that I think I’ve lost touch with.”
Nassau DA Kathleen Rice reopened the case in August 2010 and announced Tuesday that her office will issue a report by June 28 on whether Friedman was wrongly convicted, barring any unforeseen complications.
Friedman is currently a registered sex offender and cannot go near schools, places of worship or sporting events.
“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 back in 2012.
The case made shocking headlines in the late 1980s.
The case against Friedman’s father, Arnold Friedman — an admitted pedophile, began after a child pornography magazine from the Netherlands was intercepted at the family’s home. Police found a collection of child pornography in the house and began an investigation upon learning that Arnold Friedman taught computer classes at the home.
While being questioned by police, the boys said Jesse, then a teenager, participated.
Arnold Friedman first pleaded guilty, reportedly in hopes that he could spare his son prison time. But Jesse Friedman also ended up pleading guilty, claiming he did so to avoid being convicted and sentenced to prison for life.
Jesse Friedman was shown on camera in court tearfully telling the judge his father also abused him.
Arnold Friedman committed suicide in prison in 1995, leaving behind a $250,000 life insurance benefit to his imprisoned son. Jesse Friedman was released from prison in 2001.
The case was the subject of the 2002 documentary “Capturing the Friedmans.” It featured interviews with Jesse Friedman; his brother, David; and their mother, Elaine. The documentary showed the breakdown of the family as documented on home video as the case against Arnold and Jesse Friedman went forward.
While the documentary took no position on the Friedmans’ guilt, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki has assisted in the quest to have Jesse Friedman’s conviction overturned.
Jesse Friedman has denied the charges all along.
“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 isn’t the only one 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 in 2012.
Friedman lives with his wife in Bridgeport, Conn. In a Village Voice article last week, Friedman said as a Level 3 sex offender, he is banned from living near schools, playgrounds and houses of worship and is forced to lead a highly restricted life.
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