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Press Release: December 23, 2013

FROM: Lonnie Soury, Soury Communications, Inc. 917.519.4521, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


For Immediate Release

JESSE FRIEDMAN REQUESTS APPELLATE COURT AFFIRM DECISION TO RELEASE
ALL DOCUMENTS IN FRIEDMAN CASE

Files Brief in Opposition to Appeal by Nassau DA Kathleen Rice Alleges DA Rice Misled
Advisory Panel and Continues to Withhold Evidence of Friedman’s Innocence

(Mineola, NY, Monday, December 23, 2013) Jesse Friedman today filed a brief with the New York State Appellate Court for the Second Department asking the justices to affirm State Supreme Court Judge F. Dana Winslow’s August 22,2013 decision ordering Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice to turn over to Friedman, “every scrap of paper” in her files on the Friedman investigation.

The Nassau DA had refused repeated requests for documents made by Friedman attorney Ron Kuby under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), and even after Judge Winslow’s unequivocal order, requested a stay to allow her to oppose the requirement that she disclose these long-withheld documents.  

In court proceedings that led to Judge Winslow’s order that the files be disclosed, the Judge discovered that the District Attorney had withheld thousands of pages of materials, including all of the original witness statements and investigative materials demonstrating police misconduct, from the Advisory Panel charged with overseeing the DA’s Friedman case review.  

The Judge questioned the efficacy of the DA’s report, stating, “I think we've seen some differences of the information that was provided to the [DA’s investigators] and the information that was provided to the advisory group, the four members of the advisory group.  And that is why, if we are to consider the advisory panel of value, and their finding, then it's necessary to know what it was that the advisory panel was looking at, and how they reached their conclusion.” 

Accordingly, the Judge stated, “It is hereby ordered that the District Attorney of Nassau County provide all documents, records of all kinds including the Grand Jury minutes, redacting only the names of the complaining witnesses.”  He further ordered an unusual ‘no-touch’ order preventing the DA from tampering with the documents:   “During such time, no document of any kind may be moved, re-filed or in any way handled, touched by anyone in the District Attorney's Office.”

The motion filed today states: “At its core, the dispute is over whether Friedman has shown ‘good cause’ to obtain these primary documents containing information that is crucial to the ultimate determination of whether his conviction was wrongful.”

Background

In the late 80s, in the midst of a national hysteria surrounding false allegations of mass sexual abuse of children in day care centers and schools (epitomized by the McMartin Pre-School Case), Long Island teacher Arnold Friedman, his teenage son Jesse (and later another teenager named Ross Goldstein) were charged with hundreds of counts of sexually abusing children in after-school computer classes offered by the Friedmans in their Great Neck, Long Island home.  

The charges, which the U.S. Court of Appeals described as “bizarre, sadistic, and even logistically implausible,” included accounts of violent sexual group games with names like “Leapfrog” in which up to five adults would attack a classroom full of children, lining them up and serially sodomizing them by “leaping” from one to the next.  According to statements composed by police on behalf of the children, one child alleged having been sodomized every fifteen minutes over the course of ten weekly classes. 

Though these violent crimes against children would undoubtedly yield physical and medical evidence, no such evidence was ever reported.  In fact, no child or parent had ever complained or raised any concern prior to these police interrogations.  Parents picked up their children after class for years, often arriving unannounced, and many children re-enrolled for more advanced classes.

Detectives, who now admit they were certain abuse had taken place before they began interviewing the seven to twelve-year old boys who had taken the classes, drafted written statements on each child’s behalf charging the implausible crimes, allegedly in the children’s own words but revealing decidedly adult language.  Children and parents reported that police refused to accept children’s denials of abuse, making many visits to their homes, with some “interviews” lasting as long as seven hours, and used a host of improper questioning techniques now recognized as leading to false accusations.

Because police alleged the crimes had occurred “in plain view” of all the other computer students who were all also abused, the most important investigative tool available to police was to find out if other children in class with the complainants corroborated their stories.  In fact, the other children who sat alongside the complainants in the very same classes directly contradicted these stories.  The DA now admits that even though police knew the claims were contradicted by eyewitnesses, they disregarded this evidence and pressed forward with the case.

Grand jury testimony in the case was equally suspect.  In a 2013 letter to Judge Winslow, Scott Banks, who was law secretary to the judge in the Friedman case (and one of the few people to have read the grand jury minutes) stated: “The grand jury testimony of child witnesses, largely elicited with leading questions by the prosecutor, demanding ‘yes or no’ responses, provided absolutely no detail.”

With no hope of a fair trial, Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty and served thirteen years in maximum-security prisons.  In 2003, the case became the subject of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Capturing the Friedmans, 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.    

Released from prison in 2003, Friedman began an odyssey to overturn his conviction based upon the newly discovered evidence, and was opposed at every turn by the Nassau County District Attorney.  

Finally, in 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed to hear the case, and issued an extraordinary opinion.  The 20-page, 2010 decision of the three-member panel concluded that there was a “reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted.”   

The Court of Appeals called for a conviction review and asked the DA to waive the defense of the statute of limitations to allow the evidence to be presented at a hearing.  DA Rice refused to do so, choosing instead to keep the evidence secret, and have her own prosecutors review the case. Despite the inherent bias in having a prosecutor review a case originally prosecuted in the same office, she refused to observe any of the “best practices” of conviction review.  Further, she refused to share any of the original evidence with her hand-picked Advisory Panel supposedly charged with overseeing the case.

The “Rice Report” issued three years later – filled with demonstrable falsehoods and riddled with factual errors -- predictably affirmed her office’s original belief in Friedman’s guilt, and ignored or discounted the wealth of newly discovered evidence of innocence.   

Shortly after the issuance of the Report in 2013, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge F. Dana Winslow, recognizing that Rice had withheld the key evidence from Friedman’s defense and even from her own Advisory Panel, ordered Rice to turn over all of her long-withheld Friedman files to Friedman’s attorney.  

Friedman’s attorney Ron Kuby said, “The decision by Judge F. Dana Winslow was the right decision. The files of Jesse Friedman’s wrongful conviction and subsequent DA reinvestigation must be open for review. The District Attorney’s office should not to be allowed to keep a dark cloak over the Friedman case any longer. The evidence will speak for itself, and the truth that there were no crimes committed in the Friedman home will come out.”

He continued:  “For the nearly twenty-five years Jesse has spent either in prison or living under the suspicious eyes of parole authorities, he has been denied much of what we take for granted. Many of life’s normal joys, such as simply having a family, will be denied to him forever if this conviction – built on a tapestry of lies and admitted misconduct and on ‘a foundation of mass hysteria and debunked pseudo-science’– is permitted to stand.”

 

For more information about Jesse Friedman’s wrongful conviction, go to www.freejesse.net. If you have information pertinent to the investigation, please call the