Frequently Asked Questions
- Why did the children say they were abused if it was not true?
- What about Ross Goldstein?
- What about the pornographic computer games?
- You already served your time. Why are you continuing to pursue these matters?
- Why did you tell the press that you committed these crimes if, as you say now, you are innocent?
- Yes, but why did you plead guilty in the first place if, as you now say, you are innocent?
- Is there anything I can do to help?
The children said they were abused only after they were suggestively and coercively questioned by detectives. Not one child made any allegation of abuse until after police initiated an investigation and began knocking on doors and interviewing children. And that investigation wasn't precipitated by any complaint brought to the attention of authorities. It was initiated after the postal inspectors searched my house looking for child pornography.
When the detectives approached children and questioned them about being abused, the children told the police nothing bad had happened to them. My 440 motion illustrates that the detectives questioned the children in specific ways that scientific literature has conclusively and overwhelmingly shown can elicit false allegations of sexual abuse. I understand that most children who are sexually abused do not tell. However, most children who are sexually abused, if they are specifically questioned about it, tell the truth when an adult suspects and is questioning for corroboration. Uniformly, upon initial questioning, the children told the police nothing happened.
The police would visit children over and over as the children denied abuse. Then they would return until a child finally agree that he was abused. In one case, they visited a child 15 times before that child gave a statement of abuse. The detectives would also tell children that I (or my father) were child molesters; that they already knew the children were abused because other children told the police they witnessed the abuse. In one case, a detective is overhead on tape telling a child that if he doesn't admit that he was abused, he will grow up to be child molester himself. Other complainants were treated by therapists who used visualization techniques to help the children remember abuse. These therapists believed that children were traumatized and forgot that they were violently abused (that were suffering from amnesia). Special therapeutic tactics were used to help the children remember. The U.S. and British psychiatric associations have specifically warned therapists not to use these tactics to help children remember sexual abuse, because they can contribute to false memories of abuse
A summary explanation of my appeal motion is available.
Ross Goldstein was one of three other teenagers who the police came to believe were involved in a sex ring of abuse during the computer classes. Goldstein was arrested and charged as my co-defendant for molesting children in the computer classes. The day after he made bail the D.A. offered him a plea bargain deal in exchange for testifying against me.
Three months passed while he vehemently denied any involvement, and proclaimed his inability to cooperate with the D.A. because he didn't know anything. During this time the police interrogated and attempted to arrest two friends of Goldstein's. The police claim there were, at times, five adults and as many as ten children present during computer classes, creating a "sex-ring" of abuse.
Eventually, the D.A. offered Goldstein a sentence of six months in jail with a sealed criminal record if he would turn state's witness. He accepted this deal and cooperated with the Nassau County Police department. No charges were ever brought against any other alleged defendants, nor were they ever arrested, even though they are both named in the indictment as aiding and abetting in sexual abuse.
Goldstein did not know I was as equally innocent as he was himself. Goldstein knew only what he read in the newspaper, namely that my father had already confessed and plead guilty. He was threatened with 50 years in prison, just like I was, if he declined the plea bargain. He had no reason to risk a life-sentence by standing trial as a co-defendant of someone who he thought was guilty.
Goldstein was charged as a habitual violent sexual child molester. The police and District Attorney's office offered him a deal of absolutely no time in prison and no criminal record – thereby releasing right back into the community someone who they seemingly believed to be a child molester. Or rather law enforcement only wanted his testimony to assure that I backed down from my insistence of a open-court trial.
The computer's were not “loaded” with pornographic video games. The programs were on five inch floppy disks in a file box along with hundreds of other floppy disks, all unlabeled. Computers in 1986 did not have hard-drives or store programs. In order for one of those games to end up being viewed by a computer student the program would have to be located and then it would take ten minutes for the program to load into the computer's RAM. I never allowed any computer student to play an inappropriate game. I'm sure some of the children had seen the "pornographic" games which the police speak about however, because virtually every kid who had a Commodore 64 had those same games which they had traded with their friends.
Judd Maltin explained in his sworn affidavit submitted in support of my motion the following:
"My family moved to a smaller home in the winter of 1987. By that time I had lost interest in personal computers, and I decided to give to Arnold Friedman my entire collection of software. The pornographic video games that were discovered by the police were in common circulation among the community of Great Neck youth who used personal computers and with whom I had traded software. I never heard Arnold or Jesse Friedman make mention of any of this software, and I think it is highly likely that he never used any of the software that I gave him."
The fact is that I was charged with showing so-called pornographic computer games to computer students before my father ever even came into possession of many of those programs.
This is from Ron Georgalis's sworn affidavit in support of my motion:
"I do not remember the exact nature of the questions or my responses, other than that I denied that anything inappropriate had happened to me. I do, however, remember very vividly being taken into our computer room alone with Detective Hatch, where he showed me the computer program, 'Jerky Mouse,' confiscated from the Friedman home. The program consisted of a cartoon mouse masturbating, and I told him that I had not ever seen it before."
Even though my parole is now over, I will forever remain a convicted sex-offender, and I'll have to register as such under Megan's Law for the rest of my life. But that's really not the issue.
The easy thing to do would be to put the past behind me and move on with my life. No matter what the outcome before a judge may be, nothing can restore to me all the years of my life which have been lost. But I am not a child molester and I will never stop fighting to prove that fact.
This is no longer just about some sense of justice for myself. Clearly, my incarceration and parole are over. I am moving forward with my life. However, my arrest affected and hurt many people other than myself. There are these now grown men, formally of my father's computer classes, who have grown up believing they were sexually abused, when I know it is not true. The parents of these men; the siblings of these men; so many people have been hurt by the actions of the police (with their inappropriate investigation methodology) and also, as we are now learning, the inappropriate practices on the part of the therapists who were involved with the investigation. The light of truth needs to be exposed upon this case not just for myself, but because of so many others. The exploration of these matters is necessary for healing to take place.
Once I had decided to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence I was faced with two equally bad options. I could either continue to protest my innocence, in which case I would be considered in denial about my criminal behavior, a danger of re-offending, and the Parole Board would never release me. Or I could appear contrite, and accepting of responsibility for my criminal behavior, in which case it would mean agreeing with the State that I was a serial child rapist, and the Parole Board would never release me. The advice that adults gave me was to say was that I had done these terrible crimes, but that there were mitigating circumstance – that I was a victim too.
I knew there would be television cameras in the courtroom filming my sentencing. I was rationally terrified about being attacked and abused in prison by other inmates and corrections officers, and I believed that they might see the show and have sympathy for me. I was aware that child molesters were not treated well in prison. I hoped that if they heard me say that I did not willingly hurt anyone (that my father forced me to do those terrible things) that I might be treated differently. I had a good idea about what life was like for child molesters in prison. I felt that my only hope for safety in prison was to claim that I too had been a victim of my father and pray for sympathy and compassion.
Only a few weeks after I enter prison, I agreed to be interviewed for the Geraldo television show. I was nineteen years old, in solitary confinement, at the very start of my prison sentence, traumatized and depressed. 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.
The judge made it clear that she would sentence me consecutively on every count of guilty after a trial by jury. With 243 counts against me, even if they jury debated if each and every crime was proved "beyond a reasonable doubt" they could have returned a verdict of "Guilty" on maybe only ten counts. That would have been fifty years in prison.
It was impossible for me to call any defense witnesses. Theoretically I should have been able to call as witnesses children who were in the very same computer classes where another child was claiming to having been raped, and who told the police, "I was there and I never saw anything like that happen." However, the police and District Attorney withheld discovery material from me and my attorney. This violation of my Constitutional rights made it virtually impossible for me to take my case to trial proving my innocence.
Plus, my father had already pleaded guilty. Once my father had plead guilty it was extremely difficult for me to mount a defense as my father and I were charged (in legal terminology) with "a common scheme and plan" -- meaning that we acted collectively in carrying out the crimes. In fact a number of the charges to which my father plead guilty to in court also charged me as aiding and abetting -- claiming I held a child down while my father raped the child. My father's guilty plea directly implicated me making a trail all the more difficult.
Plus, Ross Goldstein was going to testify against me at trial in order to save himself from going to prison unjustly also for perhaps 100 years. Plus, the judge had already approved local News 12, Long Island's local 24 hour cable news channel, permission to cover the trial live on T.V. Plus, I had no money for expert witnesses on the matters of suggestive questioning and implanted memory. (For that matter, money would not have helped that either way because in 1988 conventional wisdom still believed that it was logical to conclude that the reason why a child said they were not sexually abused when questioned was because they actually were sexually abused, instead of thinking the child was telling the truth when they said nothing happened. Plus, in the weeks leading up to the beginning of my trial and when I had to make this decision, Kelly Michaels in New Jersey was convicted by a jury of the most implausible accusations, and sentenced to 47 years in prison. I had no way of believing a jury in Nassau County wouldn't equally convict me. I also had no way of knowing that five years later she would walk out of prison a free woman arm-in-arm with William Kunstler after many attorneys fought to overturn her conviction. If I had gone to trial, and lost, there is no way to know if I would be one of the lucky ones to have their convictions overturned. There are still many people in prison convicted of mass-hysteria sexual abuse cases.
My mother was insistent on there not being any trial. She did not want me to fight the case at trial and made her position clear. My mother realized that I was going to lose my trial and would be sentenced to a lifetime in prison. She had meetings with my attorney privately to discuss how to best convince me to accept a plea bargain. Panaro knew that the best thing for me was to accept the plea bargain even though I wanted a trial. He knew that no matter how good a lawyer he was, or thought he was, or hoped he was, I was going to lose my trial and would spend my entire life in prison. Panaro did what he thought was best for his client even though he did not do exactly what his client asked of him.
No matter how you consider my situation the only possible outcome for me was to accept the plea bargain and hope to get out of prison after "only" six years.