MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jesse Friedman, the former Long Island man who pleaded guilty in a notorious 1980s sex abuse case, alleged Thursday that prosecutors defamed him to look like a “bad guy.”
Friedman filed a lawsuit against Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice on Thursday.
Friedman and his father, Arnold Friedman, pleaded guilty in 1988 to abusing 13 children during a computer class that the elder Friedman taught at their Great Neck home. But Jesse Friedman has maintained that he was coerced into confessing.
Jesse Friedman appealed his conviction after the 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” questioned whether he was wrongfully prosecuted.
A federal appeals court in 2010 refused to overturn the conviction, but encouraged Rice, who was not the prosecutor in the original case, to review the case.
“By any impartial analysis, the re-investigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates and the 2nd Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender,” Rice’s report last year stated.
About a half-dozen prosecutors, supplemented by an independent review team that included noted defense attorney Barry Scheck, investigated claims that police used flawed interview techniques, employed hypnotism to elicit victims’ memories and took advantage of a moral panic that was sweeping the country in the late 1980s.
It also examined whether Friedman had caved to pressure from a county court judge and prosecutors to plead guilty, and methodically addressed that and all the other criticisms.
The report said during the first two weeks of the investigation, at least 35 children were interviewed by a team of 12 detectives working in two-person teams. No single detective dominated the investigation and different teams obtained incriminating statements from different victims, the report said.
The review team also said it found no credible evidence that hypnosis was used by investigators on any child.
But Friedman’s lawsuit alleged prosecutors created new allegations against him “seemingly out of whole cloth” during Rice’s review.
Rice, who is now running for Congress, had no comment.
The case against 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 acclaimed “Capturing the Friedmans” documentary a short time later featured interviews with Jesse Friedman; his brother, David; and their mother, Elaine. The film 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.
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