Media & News

It's the right move to review Jesse Friedman's case

Newsday Editorial, August 17, 2010

Sometimes, the search for justice demands taking another look. Troubling questions raised by a federal appeals court over Jesse Friedman's high-profile conviction for sexually abusing children 23 years ago call for a review of the case.

The court raised concerns about the tactics that police, prosecutors and the judge in the case used to obtain evidence and pressure then 19-year-old Friedman to plead guilty. Sorting out what occurred two decades after the fact won't be easy. The review announced yesterday by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice could end inconclusively. But Rice, who wasn't the DA at the time, is right to try.

The federal court rejected Friedman's bid to have his conviction overturned because it was filed too late. But it said that detectives used hostile, suggestive and harassing techniques, including hypnosis, to get the statements they wanted from the young boys - techniques that have since been discredited for eliciting false testimony. And the charges did come at a time when the public and prosecutors were in what the court called a "moral panic" about mass child abuse.

Friedman pleaded guilty and so did his father, Arnold, who also pleaded in federal court to mailing child pornography. That ended the prosecutions, so the evidence was never tested in court. The appeals court didn't conclude that Jesse Friedman was railroaded. But it found a real possibility that he was wrongly convicted. Justice requires that officials try to find out if he was.