A New York man who has been fighting for years to overturn his conviction for sexually abusing more than a dozen boys in the 1980s has taken a new step to clear his name by filing a motion Tuesday to vacate his conviction.
Jesse Friedman, who was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film “Capturing the Friedmans,” filed a motion in the Nassau County Court asking a judge to set aside his convictions from the 1988 case. The then-18-year-old pleaded guilty to charges that he and his father abused 13 children who took computer classes at their Great Neck home. Jesse Friedman, who was paroled from prison in 2001, has been fighting for more than a decade to clear his name.
“I never committed a crime against any child ever,” Friedman said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “I know that my exoneration is certain,” he told reporters. “It’s just a matter of having to fight against a district attorney that refuses to acknowledge the own evidence right in front of her.”
His defense lawyers contend there is new evidence that proves his innocence, including students and parents who the lawyers say have no recanted their allegations, as well as “proof that police and prosecutors hid evidence.” According to court papers, Friedman claims he is seeking to have his conviction overturned for three reasons. Friedman, now 45 and living in Bridgeport, Conn., claims he is an innocent person; that evidence was coerced, unreliable and untrue; and that there was misconduct by a judge that coerced Friedman to plead guilty.
“We have gone without justice for 25 years,” defense lawyer Ron Kuby said. “We will continue to work as long as it takes until Jesse Friedman’s name is finally cleared … Convicting an innocent person is an abomination.”
Prosecutors have maintained a position that Friedman is guilty and have pointed to a June 2013 report released by the district attorney’s office that concluded a three-year review and found Friedman’s conviction to be justified. Shams Tarek, a spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, said that prosecutors spent “hundreds of hours” reviewing the case and, along with an independent advisory panel, found it to be “as thorough and fair as possible.” He said they would review Friedman’s motion and “respond as needed in court.”
One of the members of the advisory panel, Barry Scheck, said in an affidavit that the panel did not interview witnesses, review grand jury minutes, the original case file or the results of the re-investigation. "The defense raises very specific claims that there are a number of serious substantive errors in the Rice Report," he wrote. Scheck also said he wants the court to hold “a full evidentiary hearing” to explore Friedman’s claims.