Media & News

Jesse Friedman Case Re-Examination

By Carol Frank, Anton News, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 29 June 2012

So far, four original complainants have recanted

The review of Jesse Friedman's case by the Nassau County District Attorney's office, while conducted to protect the confidentiality of those associated with the case, is uncovering new and important evidence that is being examined by a panel of experts appointed by District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

The review of Jesse Friedman's case by the Nassau County District Attorney's office, while conducted to protect the confidentiality of those associated with the case, is uncovering new and important evidence that is being examined by a panel of experts appointed by District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

While it appears that some of the boys, now men in their thirties, have not responded to written inquiries, four of the original 14 complainants have recanted the testimony that they gave to the grand jury almost 25 years ago. In addition, 20 other young men who were in the classes where abuse was alleged to have happened, and who were not complainants have offered testimony in taped or filmed interviews with investigators, that they were never molested nor did they ever see anyone molested.

Lonnie Soury, a member of Friedman's investigative team provided a redacted statement in which one complainant said, "I remember the cops coming to my house and the cops being aggressive and people wanting me to say what they wanted to hear. I'll tell you, I never said I was sodomized. I was never raped or molested... if I said it, it was not because it happened, it was because someone else put those words in my mouth."

A non-complainant who was in classes in which complainants testified to having been repeatedly sodomized in plain view of the rest of the class said, "I took years of classes with them. I was always enthusiastic about going back... It was always something I wanted to do. Never something that was uncomfortable at all or awkward. I always assumed that if something was going on in the classes, I would have had some sense of it, and I didn't... People who were in class with me always felt that they weren't allowed to say that nothing happened."

Another non-complainant said, "I was very insistent that nothing ever happened to me and that never seemed to be good enough as a response...
"Nothing happened to me and I saw none of that stuff... I remember the class as a thing that I enjoyed."

The only complainant with whom the investigators spoke and who did not recant recalled being in hypnosis shortly after interviews with the police. In a 2007 interview he restated that he had no memory of being abused until after he was told so by police and after being put into a trance.
A parent, who frequently went to pick up her son and others in the class for hockey meets would go inside if she had to get the students before the class let out, also came forward in the last month. In speaking with the investigators he said, "I didn't realize at the time when all of this became public that my son's class was the epicenter of it all...I never saw anything suspect at all and I would often go inside, unannounced, to pick up the boys early."

The Record spoke with documentary filmmaker Andrew Jarecki at length. He provided the following statement: "Because we had stumbled on the story that became Capturing the Friedmans, we came to this without any preconception of what we might find. We were not advocates for the wrongly convicted, but we've come across so much new evidence in the decade since the movie, that it was impossible to ignore Jesse Friedman's situation...Though the police case was riddled with problems and inconsistencies from the beginning, we have never found Jesse to be guarded, secretive or less than truthful in telling his story and providing information.

"And we have increasingly felt a change in the attitude of the Great Neck community as well. People are willing to take a second look at a case that paralyzed the community in 1988 and 1989. For example, we have spoken to numerous alleged victims in the case who are upset because they were never molested and feel that as children they were coerced by police and prosecutors to make charges that were not true.

"My wife and I always worry about our kids, and take the crime of child sexual abuse very seriously. At the same time, the fact that this is such an emotionally-charged issue is also why it sometimes leads to wrongful convictions and false confessions as appears to have happened in Jesse Friedman's case.

"The mass hysteria that engulfed Great Neck was not an unusual phenomenon in the '80s, when many false sex-abuse cases emerged. Bullying of child witnesses, use of hypnosis to elicit false testimony, withholding of evidence by prosecutors, judicial bias, all of which occurred in this case, were common themes in what were at the time called 'multi-victim, multi-perpetrator' sex cases.

"But now that most of those cases have been debunked, we have an obligation to revisit them in light of what we know today. We were pleased that the Court of Appeals stated that they believed it was likely that Jesse was wrongfully convicted, and that the Nassau County DA agreed to revisit the case. We hope people who were involved in the case will continue to come forward and share any information they have. It is a crucial way to heal old wounds and improve the system of justice."

Jesse Friedman has continued to assert that he was innocent of all the charges brought against him almost 25 years ago. Having served 13 years in prison, he only wants to be able to have a normal life without the cloud of "violent sexual offender" status hanging over him and his wife. He told the Record that he does not harbor anger toward the men who were just children at the time when the story broke. In fact, he has given a blanket release absolving individuals involved in the case of any liability. He said, "If those boys were made to believe that they had been damaged...then they really have felt damaged all these years. The truth could set us all free."

The confidential hotline established to provide access for people with any recollections that might be important is 516-660-4385.