Press Releases & Statements

FROM: Lonnie Soury, Soury Communications, Inc. 212.414.5857, lsoury@ soury.com

For Immediate Release

After a 3-year Investigation Described as “Exhaustive and Comprehensive” Nassau District Attorney Admits in Court It Never Reviewed the Charges of Which Jesse Friedman Was Convicted, and Claims to Have Lost the Records

Friedman Asks Court for an Order to Reconstruct the Record of Conviction, or Dismiss the Charges against Him

Acting DA Madeline Singas -- currently running for District Attorney -- Led Friedman Case Review That Withheld Evidence from Advisory Panel and the Public

(Mineola, NY-July 28, 2015) Jesse Friedman, whose court-ordered Actual Innocence hearing will begin in the next few months, asked Nassau County Justice Terence Murphy to order a hearing to reconstruct the record against him after the Nassau DA’s office claimed to have lost its records of the specific charges to which Friedman pled guilty. ( http://bit.ly/1JKQiW4 )

There were 244 allegations lodged against Jesse Friedman by police and prosecutors in 1988. Friedman was coerced into pleading guilty to 26 of those charges. It is to these charges that he must prove his innocence.

A “reconstruction hearing” like the one Friedman is requesting is rare, since multiple sources of this information almost always exist via court documents, stenographic notes, and internal DA’s office memoranda. However in this case the DA has said it is unable to locate any such records. Such a hearing would require the key participants in Friedman's original conviction, including retired ADA Joe Onorato, to testify as to their best recollections of the counts to which Friedman plead guilty. The Court might then determine that so many records are missing that dismissal is warranted, or that the DA is actively at fault for losing the records of conviction. If no record can be reconstructed, Friedman seeks summary dismissal of his conviction.

In a Kafka-esque turn, acting DA Madeline Singas -- who is currently running for District Attorney -- has suggested that in lieu of finding the records she says the office has lost, Friedman should be required to prove his innocence of more than two hundred counts for which he was indicted, but never convicted. Friedman maintains that no crimes for which he was indicted actually occurred, and he was forced to plead guilty to 26 of the 244 charges levied in the three indictments after the judge threatened him with life in prison.

Friedman’s attorney Ronald L. Kuby said: “How can a DA expect us to trust her review of a conviction if she never even admitted that her office lost the original case record, and if to this day she isn’t able to tell the public what the defendant was convicted of?”

He continued: “This goes to the heart of Jesse Friedman’s conviction 27 years ago. When he was first brought before a judge, he had no idea what charges he was being accused of. The indictments were not specific as to time, place, victims or witnesses, purposefully, because they were made of whole cloth, the product of a national hysteria regarding false allegations of mass sexual abuse. Now, as we seek to prove Jesse Friedman was innocent of the crimes he was coerced to plead to, the DA claims to have lost the only record of what those charges were.”

Earlier this year, The New York Times editorial page declared Friedman’s case “deeply flawed” and called for Nassau prosecutors to open Friedman’s files:

“There is no good reason for Nassau County’s acting district attorney, Madeline Singas, to continue to hide the record…. 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?” ( http://nyti.ms/1GLBuUY)

Nassau DA Has For Decades Made Every Effort to Cloak Investigation

The fact that the DA’s office now states that they have lost the charges against Friedman is in keeping with their historical effort to maintain secrecy about the long troubled case.

At the time the DA announced her intention to review the Friedman case, she made bold pronouncements about the depth of the investigation, heralding an outside “Advisory Panel” comprised of criminal justice experts who would oversee the review. The truth (revealed later only upon Court compulsion) is that the DA did not permit the Advisory Panel to view police reports, witness statements, or any other essential evidence, nor to interview witnesses.

After being presented with some of the profound misstatements of testimony and misrepresentations of evidence in the report, the most prominent of those experts, Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, broke ranks to reveal that the Advisory Panel members had not been shown the vast majority of evidence in the case and had not been permitted to interview most witnesses, but instead had been asked to rely only on narrow distillations of that material, prepared by a secret group of Assistant DAs. Scheck submitted an affidavit 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.

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 244 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.”

In 2003, the case became the subject of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Capturing the Friedmans, directed by Andrew Jarecki,which raised doubts about the validity of the prosecution. In the film, police officers admit to shocking misconduct, a number of the original complainants recant their accusations, and the Judge admits she “never had a doubt” about the Friedman’s guilt despite never having seen evidence at trial.

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, as well as more than forty eyewitnesses to the computer classes stating that no abuse occurred – despite prosecution claims that children were violently attacked 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.”

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