Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jesse Friedman: Convicted abuser - is he a victim of 'a vast moral panic?'

NY Times  Early in “Capturing the Friedmans,” the 2003 documentary that tells the harrowing story of a father and son charged in 1987 with the brutal sexual abuse of children on Long Island, one of the detectives on the case recalls her hesitation in the face of intense pressure from parents to prosecute quickly.

“Just charging somebody with this kind of a crime is enough to ruin their lives,” she said. “So you want to make sure that you have enough evidence, and that you’re convinced that you’re making a good charge.”

On Tuesday, the son, Jesse Friedman, who was released in 2001 after serving 13 years in prison, will be back in court, arguing once again for the disclosure of that evidence, which he says will help to prove his innocence. Twenty-seven years after he was first charged, prosecutors still refuse to give it to him.

From the beginning, the case was deeply flawed. The only evidence that Jesse and his father, Arnold, had abused anyone consisted of statements to the police by children and one of Jesse’s friends. Many of the statements were made after repeated or hourslong visits from detectives who would not leave until they heard what they wanted. None of the children had previously complained to anyone of any abuse. [...]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, similar cases were playing out across the country: extreme, often implausible allegations of mass sexual abuse of children by child care workers, leading to dozens of prosecutions and convictions. One federal appeals court has described the mood of the time as a “vast moral panic.”

The problem was that most of the charges weren’t true. Decades later, almost all the convictions of that era have been reversed. [...]

But Mr. Friedman says he pleaded guilty under the threat of an effective life sentence if he were convicted at trial.

In the years since his release, Mr. Friedman has been developing a case to clear his name, with the help of his lawyers and the documentary’s director, Andrew Jarecki. Among other things, the prosecution’s only adult witness has recanted, as have five of the children who said they had been abused. More than two dozen eyewitnesses at the computer classes where the abuse was allegedly committed now say no abuse occurred. Many students told investigators this at the time, but prosecutors did not share that with Mr. Friedman’s lawyer. [....]

In 2010, the federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said “the police, prosecutors, and the judge did everything they could to coerce a guilty plea and avoid a trial,” and that there was a “reasonable likelihood” Mr. Friedman had been wrongfully convicted.

That concern was echoed by the only person outside the Nassau County district attorney’s office to have seen the full 17,000-page file in the Friedman case — a state trial judge named F. Dana Winslow. In 2013, after reviewing the file along with new pieces of evidence, Mr. Winslow ordered prosecutors to turn over “every piece of paper” generated in the case against Mr. Friedman, with a handful of names redacted. That has still not happened.

The [D.A. ]office says it re-confirmed Mr. Friedman’s guilt in a three-year, 155-page report it released in 2013, purporting to re-investigate the case. But whether or not Mr. Friedman can establish his innocence is for a court to decide, not for the prosecutors who tried the case in the first place. [...]

There have long been grave questions about the prosecution and guilty plea. And innocent people plead guilty surprisingly often. At the very least, Mr. Friedman — whose life has already been ruined — should be given a real chance to prove his innocence in court. If the Nassau County district attorney’s office is so confident of his guilt, and of the legitimacy of its prosecution, what is it afraid of?


  1. @Jewishwhistleblower - thank you for your extensive response - my simple question is why is this material not mentioned by the New York Times which has run several articles on this case and clearly thinks he is innocent?

  2. @Jewishwhistleblower - just did a quick search of your centerpiece - it isn't simple


    Mr. Friedman’s defenders note that no child ever offered any complaint until the police began interviewing them. Many signed up for new courses or had siblings who enrolled after allegedly suffering and witnessing hideous abuse. Hundreds of normally hypervigilant Great Neck parents picked up seemingly happy children for years, apparently unaware they had just been sexually abused. No medical testimony was introduced. Some children said the Friedmans compounded their abuse by taking pictures and making pornographic videos. No image has surfaced.

    Arline Epstein, whose son Michael attended classes in which some of the most frequent abuse was said to have occurred, kept detailed notes during that period. She said her son adamantly denied any abuse had taken place and that psychologists and the police had emphasized how important it was for him to come to terms with his abuse and how, according to her notes, “testifying is a very positive experience” that would bring victims “enormous relief.” Finally, Michael provided an account of abuse, later telling her it seemed to be the only way to satisfy psychologists and the police, even though it hadn’t happened. (He never testified before the grand jury.)

    “It was like there was this very unsanitary breeding pool of false information that was creating this sense of hysteria,” Ms. Epstein said. “I felt at the time I was getting so much information from so many places, from parents, from the newspapers, from police, from psychologists, but it was just an echo chamber coming from one source, the police, and no one stopped and asked if it was true.”

    But both Arnold and Jesse Friedman signed detailed confessions, and after his plea, Jesse Friedman did a television interview with Geraldo Rivera reiterating his confession. (He later said that, facing a long sentence and having just confessed to horrific crimes, the interview was the only way he knew to try to gain sympathy that might help him survive prison life.)


    In a classroom debate of innocence versus guilt, many of my students say they would never plead guilty to a crime they didn't commit. Then we discussed the Friedman case, where Jesse faced 300-plus criminal counts, a judge who said he would get the maximum sentence on each count if convicted at trial, and a potential jury understandably whipped into fear by the case. Jesse took a plea deal, admitted his guilt at sentencing, and affirmed his guilt in a prison interview with Geraldo Rivera in 1988. (Presentation by Jesse Friedman, May 17, 2012) He now claims that these statements were made in a misguided attempt to engender sympathy from the judge, fellow prisoners, and the general public, by fabricating a story that his father molested him as a child:

    I spoke to Geraldo Rivera in what I believed to be a last-ditch effort to obtain public sympathy and explain the situation in some way. Up to that time the press had done nothing but vilify me. In my interview for the Geraldo show, I said that I had been molested by my father and sexually abused children in the computer classes. I am ashamed about going on the Geraldo show and telling those lies. I did this for the same reasons that I told Judge Boklan a similar confession. I had already pled guilty to these crimes (so protesting my innocence was moot), I was facing a long sentence, and it was the only explanation for this alleged criminal behavior which I thought would provide me an opportunity to be released from prison before the full 18 years of my sentence had passed.

  3. jewishwhistleblowerFebruary 10, 2015 at 9:00 PM

    >later said that, facing a long sentence and having just confessed
    horrific crimes, the interview was the only way he knew to try
    >to gain
    sympathy that might help him survive prison life.)

    Again, on Geraldo he confessed not only to crimes he was convicted of but also to crimes he was never convicted of.

    And what sympathy do you get in jail as a confessed pedophile? A pedophile is treated as a pedophile in jail.

    But again read further at http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/ctf/1.html

    There was also Ross Goldstein a third defendant who was arrested along with Arnold and Jesse Friedman who plead guilty and is never mentioned in the film or in most articles.

  4. @Jewishwhistleblower - perhaps it would be better if you wrote a guest post - your major points seem to covered over by a lot of details


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