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Jesse Friedman wants judge recused from his case

Jesse Friedman speaks with reporters about his bid to overturn his sex abuse conviction at a press conference at the Nassau County Supreme Court.
Photo Credit: Mike Balsamo/Examiner.com

A man who has been fighting to overturn his conviction for sexually abusing more than a dozen boys in the 1980s filed court papers Monday asking a Nassau County judge to recuse herself from his case because of ties she has to the county’s top prosecutor.

Jesse Friedman has filed a motion in the Nassau County Court asking Judge Teresa Corrigan to step aside from his case because of a “close and longstanding” relationship she has with Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Friedman pleaded guilty in 1988 – when he was 18 years old – to charges that he and his father abused 13 children who took computer classes at their Great Neck home. Jesse Friedman was paroled in 2001 and has been fighting for more than a decade to clear his name. His father, Arnold, died in prison.

At a press conference in June, Friedman said he had “never committed a crime against any child ever” and that he had been coerced to plead guilty. His lawyers contend they have discovered new evidence to prove his innocence, which include students and parents who have recanted their allegations. The lawyers say they also have “proof that police and prosecutors hid evidence.”

Friedman’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, filed a motion in June asking a judge to set aside his convictions – and the case was assigned to Corrigan. Corrigan, who was elected as a county court judge in 2013 and appointed as an acting state Supreme Court judge the same year, said in election materials that she was a prosecutor for 23 years. Prior to being elected, she served under Rice as a bureau chief in the Nassau DA’s office.

According to Friedman’s lawyers, Corrigan worked with Rice when the two were both assistant district attorneys in Brooklyn in the 1990s. After Rice was elected as Nassau County District Attorney in 2005, she hired Corrigan as a bureau chief. Friedman’s legal team says Corrigan was working with Rice when the DA’s office opposed Friedman’s prior efforts to reopen the case.

“Plainly, Judge Corrigan’s service in association with DA Rice is not a mere nominal one,” Friedman’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, wrote in the motion that was filed Monday. “Though Judge Corrigan has stated she has never been involved in this case, and the Defendant here does not question that assertion, she was plainly a trusted lieutenant to DA Rice … Recusal in this case is mandatory.”

Rice spokesman Shams Tarek said prosecutors will oppose the motion. He says Rice “and her prosecutors and investigators are completely independent from the original Friedman prosecution and have spent hundreds of hours performing an exhaustive review of this decades-old case and guilty plea, a review that an independent advisory panel has declared to be as thorough and fair as possible.”

A court spokesman said the judge was unavailable for comment.