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Jesse Friedman files defamation suit against Nassau DA

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A New York man portrayed in an Oscar-winning film, who is trying to overturn a sex abuse conviction from a quarter-century ago, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Nassau County District Attorney and alleges she defamed him by claiming he is a “narcissist” and “psychopath” who possessed child pornography in prison, his lawyer said Thursday.

Jesse Friedman, portrayed in the film “Capturing the Friedmans,” has been fighting for years to overturn his guilty plea in a 1980s sex abuse case on Long Island. He claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice made defamatory statements against him in a report her office released in June 2013. The report, released with a press release and more than 900 pages of attachments, said a three-year review by prosecutors found Friedman’s conviction to be justified.

In their “key findings,” prosecutors pointed to what they referred to as prison disciplinary records, which they said showed Friedman was “caught possessing a magazine” that contained child pornography and wrote stories about “bestiality, incest and child rape.” Prosecutors later told a judge Friedman had been acquitted on the pornography charges. The DA’s report also said Friedman was found by a psychologist “to be a ‘narcissist’ and ‘psychopath’ who was capable of committing the crimes with which he was charged.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola, names Rice and two aides, John Byrne and Shams Tarek, as defendants. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office, Paul Leonard, called the suit “meritless” and said they would “defend zealously against its allegations.” The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Friedman’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, said Rice “falsely accused Jesse of having written horrific pornography celebrating the very kinds of crimes of which he has been accused.” He also claims Rice “timed the false claims so they appeared in the press at a time when they would have the greatest negative impact on Jesse.” Kuby also alleges the DA’s report “includes a false psychological evaluation by a discredited psychologist.”

Friedman and his father, Arnold, both pleaded guilty in 1988 and admitted to abusing 13 children who took computer classes at their home in Great Neck. Jesse Friedman, who was paroled in 2001, later said he accepted the plea to avoid the possibility of a life sentence. He has been fighting to clear his name since his release. His father died in prison in 1995.