MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A New York judge on Thursday ordered the release of 25-year-old documents that a convicted child molester featured in a 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary maintains he needs to help prove his innocence.
“Every aspect, every part, every piece of paper generated in the matter of People V. Friedman” will be released to Jesse Friedman’s defense team, state Supreme Court Judge F. Dana Winslow ordered following a brief hearing.
He gave Nassau County prosecutors until Tuesday to provide the defense team with grand jury testimony and transcripts of witness interviews, stemming from the notorious case. The prosecutors said they intend to appeal Winslow’s order.
Friedman, 44, and his father Arnold pleaded guilty in 1988 to abusing 13 children who came to their Great Neck, Long Island, home for computer classes. Jesse Friedman’s defense team insists many of the children who are now adults have recanted testimony about their abuse.
The district attorney’s office, which opposed the release of the documents because of privacy issues and other concerns, issued a report in June that concluded police and prosecutors had sufficient evidence to pursue sex-abuse charges.
“After more than two decades, several guilty pleas, a complete appeal process, and a full and independent re-investigation, the victims in this case deserve closure and privacy,” said Shams Tarek, a spokesman for District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “We are disappointed by the decision and will absolutely be appealing and expecting to prevail on behalf of the victims in a higher court.”
The Friedman case has drawn comparisons to the 1980s California McMartin preschool scandal involving allegations of sex abuse, but the investigators in their June report said the two cases “were in no way similar.”
Winslow on Thursday was particularly critical of a portion of the DA’s report that claimed Jesse Friedman, while in prison in 2000, had written “fictional” stories that described violent and disturbing sexual acts, including incest involving a father and his children, sex with a dog and child rape. Prosecutors also said he had been disciplined for possessing a photograph of two pre-pubescent girls — at least one of whom was naked — torn from the pages of a magazine in violation of the terms of his sex offender counseling program.
Defense attorney Ronald Kuby has maintained that Friedman was acquitted of those prison charges; a claim that an assistant district attorney reluctantly confirmed Thursday.
“We can’t function in the justice system in this fashion,” the judge said in a scathing rebuke. “This is a country that has no feeling of credibility when it comes to our institutions.”
Although he pleaded guilty, Friedman has maintained that he was coerced into confessing. A federal appeals court in 2010 refused to overturn the conviction but encouraged Rice, who was not the original prosecutor, to review the case.
Andrew Jarecki, who made the 2003 film, “Capturing the Friedmans,” was in the courtroom on Thursday when Winslow issued his order.
“This ruling is an attempt to correct a fraudulent report that was based upon false information that the DA knew was fraudulent,” Jarecki said.