After pleading guilty more than 25 years ago in an infamous child sex abuse case, then saying the admissions were forced, Jesse Friedman has filed a motion asserting his “actual innocence” and blasting a recent Nassau County District Attorney review that refused to upset his conviction.
Insisting Friedman never abused the students who took computer classes in his parent’s Great Neck home in the 1980s, his defense pushed for a hearing, saying Nassau County prosecutors “have done everything possible to usurp the role of the court as the fundamental arbiter of justice”
“From coercing Friedman’s guilty plea, to opposing an evidentiary hearing on technicalities, to manufacturing a specious Conviction ‘Integrity’ Report, the D.A.s have arrogated to themselves the power to determine guilt and have consistently tried to close the Friedman case by claiming it is resolved,” the defense said in its motion papers.
The Criminal Procedure Law §440.10 motion filed today marks Friedman’s third post-conviction challenge in a case depicted by the 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary “Capturing the Friedmans.”
An initial 2004 state court challenge was denied, as well as a federal habeas corpus petition, but not before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit took the unusual step in 2010 of urging a “complete review” of a case record that suggested a “reasonable likelihood” Friedman was wrongfully convicted under then-District Attorney Denis Dillon.
After a three-year review that was assisted by an advisory panel including Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, District Attorney Kathleen Rice concluded Friedman’s conviction should stand (NYLJ, June 25, 2013).
“Independent prosecutors 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,” Rice’s spokesman, Shams M. Tarek said in an email Monday. “The papers filed today don’t change this, but we’ll review them and respond as needed in court.”
Friedman’s motion called Rice’s report “error-riddled” as well as “false and mean-spirited.” It pointed to alleged victims who testified in front of the grand jury decades earlier but have now recanted.
It also included an affirmation submitted by Scheck, who took no side in the case, but said the “starkly different conclusions” about witness credibility should be resolved by a court.
Friedman was released on parole in 2001. He is registered as a Level 3 sex offender, the most restrictive designation under the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act.