Press Releases & Statements

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For Immediate Release

Expert on Judicial Ethics: Judge Theresa Corrigan Should Be Recused from Jesse Friedman Case

Judge Has a Series of Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest, Including that She Is Co-defendant with Ex-DA Kathleen Rice in Federal Civil Rights Suit Alleging False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution and Manufacturing Evidence

As Rice Report on Friedman Investigation Comes Under Scrutiny, Can Judge Corrigan Impartially Rule on Allegations of Prosecutorial Misconduct?

(Mineola NY – Monday, March 9, 2015) Bruce Green, one of the country’s leading experts on judicial ethics and Director of the Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University School of Law, has called on Judge Teresa Corrigan to be recused from sitting on Jesse Friedman’s Actual Innocence hearing in Nassau County Court. He cited the close association of the judge with four key players in Friedman case. Friedman today filed a renewed motion to recuse Judge Corrigan.

Professor Green, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and chair of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics, filed an ethics opinion with the court after reviewing the issues that have arisen concerning Judge Teresa Corrigan’s ability to be impartial. Section 100.3 of the NY Rules of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to recuse herself in any proceeding in which “the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Green wrote, “My opinion is that the circumstances of this case give rise to the conclusion that Judge Corrigan’s should be recused under the applicable judicial conduct rules because her impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

“These circumstances cast serious doubt on Judge Corrigan’s impartiality because they provide a strong motivation to favor the DA’s Office and her prior associates in the Office when she makes rulings regarding the propriety of the prosecutors’ past conduct, especially when the conduct occurred during the period when the judge served in the Office.” See Green Affirmation, http://bit.ly/1EvA715

It was recently uncovered that Judge Teresa Corrigan is party to a federal civil rights suit along with former DA Kathleen Rice and Friedman case chief investigator Charles Ribando. The suit includes allegations of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and federal constitutional claims for evidence manufacturing. The three of them are also being jointly represented (Sanseviro v. State of New York).

During that time when she was in the District Attorney’s Office, the Judge was closely associated with four of the individuals whose conduct in Friedman’s case has been seriously questioned. In addition to Rice, who hired her and headed the Office, Corrigan was supervised by Meg Reiss, who led the Friedman reinvestigation and was the largest contributor in the judicial campaign. Charles Ribando, Corrigan’s codefendant in the federal lawsuit, was her supervisor as well. In turn, Corrigan supervised Joseph Onorato, who prosecuted Friedman in the original 1988 sexual abuse hysteria case.

According to the Green affirmation, “The circumstances should be viewed in the aggregate, not in isolation, and measured against the basic tenet of the rule, namely, that a judge must recuse herself in any proceeding in which ‘the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.’”

“The combined circumstances, which make this case highly unusual and certainly different from other criminal cases that will ordinarily come before the Court, raise a substantial appearance that the judge will favor her former Office and its personnel in her rulings and be influenced by information she learned and impressions she formed about Friedman’s case while employed there.”

Ron Kuby, in the Affirmation filed today, stated, “This case involves serious allegations of misconduct by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office during two periods of time. The first was from 1987 to 1989, during the initial prosecution. The second from 2010-2013, during which the Rice Report was researched and drafted, and compounded the errors from the 1980s by condoning the misconduct it admitted and hiding the rest.”

“Judge Corrigan may also be reasonably tempted to avoid disclosure, since the misconduct alleged would be ascribed to two of her co-defendants in the Sanseviro case, Charles Ribando and Kathleen Rice. If evidence of their misconduct, or hiding of Brady material, is publicly revealed, it could be additional persuasive material against the three co-defendants in that case from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.” See Friedman Affirmation, http://bit.ly/1CVZfxu

Jesse Freidman said, “Twenty-seven years into my effort to obtain justice, the public should not be asked to trust the impartiality of a judge so deeply professionally and personally connected to those who have either been responsible for my wrongful conviction and incarceration or tasked with defending it so vigorously and unethically.”

Corrigan never disclosed that she was a codefendant in the federal civil rights complaint with those in the DA’s office who were closest to the Friedman investigation.

This is the second recusal request filed with the court. Judge Corrigan denied the original request in October, 2014. Friedman has asked the court to assign a different judge to review the latest recusal request, as well as a Discovery Motion seeking that all evidence that exists, written, recorded and collected, be turned over to the defense. Corrigan had claimed that she distanced herself from Rice, Ribando and others in the DA’s office who worked on the Friedman matter over the past 10 years.

Background

In 1988, in the midst of a national hysteria regarding false allegations of child sexual abuse in schools and day care centers (epitomized by the now-overturned McMartin Preschool case), police alleged that Jesse Friedman, his father Arnold, and three other teenagers had violently abused hundreds of children attending after-school computer classes at the Friedmans' Great Neck home, though over a period of five years, no child or parent had ever complained, and no medical or physical evidence was ever produced.

Eighteen year-old Jesse Friedman, then a freshman studying music and psychology at SUNY Purchase, was charged with 243 counts of child sexual abuse, and forced to plead guilty after being threatened with life in prison by Judge Abigail Boklan who, despite having heard no evidence in the case, was convinced of Jesse Friedman’s guilt. Friedman served 13 years in maximum-security prisons and remains branded as a Level III “violent sexual predator.”

After Friedman fought for decades to clear his name, in 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an extraordinary opinion, concluding that there was a reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted.”

Part of the mountain of new evidence discovered or brought forward by Friedman’s legal team, is a complete recantation from Ross Goldstein, the prosecution’s only adult witness, and more than twenty-five statements from eyewitnesses to the computer classes stating that no abuse occurred – despite prosecution claims that children were raped in “plain view” of the entire class.Goldstein, who was charged with 118 counts of sexual abuse of children, now says that:

“…Every single thing found in my testimony was untrue and said by me at the time to avoid a trial. I never saw Jesse or Arnold Friedman abuse any children, nor did I ever sexually abuse any children.”

“I did not witness Jesse or anyone else commit any crimes in the Friedman home with any computer student. My testimony before the grand jury was a result of tremendous and unrelenting pressure and intimidation by the police and district attorney’s office in which I was eventually coerced to lie about crimes taking place in order to try to save myself and be granted the YO [Youthful Offender] status deal that was being offered to me.”

After the DA’s three-year review of the case by DA Rice’s office, said to have been supervised by an outside Advisory Panel, Barry Scheck, the most prominent member of the Panel and co-founder of the Innocence Project, broke ranks to reveal that the panel members had not been shown the vast majority of evidence in the case and had not even interviewed most witnesses, but instead had been asked to rely only on the DA’s distillations of that material. Scheck submitted an affidavit with Judge Corrigan asking the Court to undertake a “full evidentiary hearing” and release to Friedman’s lawyers the original case files that have been kept secret by the DA for over 27 years.

In Scheck’s words: “I believe it would be desirable for the court and the parties, utilizing whatever procedural mechanisms the court deems suitable, to review materials not available to the Advisory Panel, such as grand jury minutes, the original case file, and the results of the re-investigation to aid in finally resolving, to the extent possible the issue of Jesse Friedman’s guilt or innocence.”

Scheck joined a chorus of other respected voices in criminal justice in requesting the disclosure of these files:

  • In 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision stating there was a “reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted” and calling for the case files to be opened and the evidence presented at a new hearing. DA Rice refused.

  • In 2013, N. Scott Banks, the former law secretary for the Judge who convicted Jesse, wrote a letter of support requesting that Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Winslow “grant Mr. Friedman’s application, and direct the District Attorney to disclose this extremely relevant evidence to his attorneys and provide a level of transparency very much needed in this matter.”

  • In 2013, after reviewing the documents and holding multiple hearings on the issue, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow conveyed from the bench his grave concerns about the exculpatory nature of the materials withheld from Friedman, and ordered the disclosure of “every piece of paper” with Friedman’s name on it. DA Rice appealed the decision to the Appellate Court, Second Department. Oral arguments were held in the case February 10, 2015. A decision in the case is expected shortly.

For more information about Jesse Friedman’s wrongful conviction, go to www.freejesse.net.