Nearly 10 years after trying to clear his name, Jesse Friedman’s conviction on sexual abuse charges was reaffirmed by the Nassau County district attorney’s office in a 155-page report released Tuesday.
Friedman, who along with his family was profiled in the 2003 documentary “Capturing the Friedmans,” was paroled in 2001 after serving a 13-year prison sentence for sexually abusing boys who were enrolled in his father, Arnold Friedman’s, computer classes in the 1980s. The documentary included home videos shot while Arnold Friedman was preparing to go to trial.
“Capturing the Friedmans” raised the possibility that Jesse Friedman and Arnold Friedman (who committed suicide in prison) were wrongfully convicted. The film explored whether children whose testimony helped cinch the convictions gave accurate depictions of their experiences, and even questioned whether police coerced the children into giving false accounts.
Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice revisited the case on the request of a 2010 federal court motion.
Rice’s office found that Jesse Friedman was not wrongfully convicted in a case that swept Long Island and the nation.
“I came to this case without an agenda or any personal stake in its outcome, and without any interest outside of searching for the truth. We were fully prepared to exonerate Mr. Friedman if that’s where the facts led us. But the facts, under any objective analysis, led to a substantially different conclusion. This exhaustive and impartial process has only strengthened the justice system’s confidence that Jesse Friedman was involved in the sexual abuse of children,” Rice said in a statement. “While some memories have faded, many others remain strong. While some evidence has been rightly questioned, other pieces remain highly incriminating. I don’t believe anyone outside of those involved in these crimes will ever know the absolute truth to every aspect and allegation of this case. What I do know is that this investigation has given our community a clearer and more comprehensive affirmation of Jesse Friedman’s involvement in the sexual abuse of children than it has ever had before.”
Rice said she hoped the report would give comfort to the victims whose credibility was attacked in “Capturing the Friedmans” and elsewhere and would encourage victims of other abuses to come forward.
“Prosecutors must be as vigilant in preventing and investigating wrongful convictions as they are representing victims of crime,” she said. “Our office’s door will remain open and we will remain aggressive in seeking the truth both before and after convictions have taken place.”
The report “concludes that Jesse Friedman was not wrongfully convicted,” and denied Friedman’s and his supporters’ accusations that some of the children who helped convict him did not tell the truth.
“None of the five individuals who Friedman advocates suggest ‘recanted’ have, in fact, recanted to any degree of legal certainty. Three have not recanted at all,” the report found. “Reviews of transcripts concerning these individuals reveal that abuse occurred. Another who spoke to the review team stood by his account, in contrast to the statement he gave to filmmakers. The subject of the most recent purported recantation has refused to speak to the review team or even confirm he wrote the letter outlining the claim, which was provided to the review team by Jesse Friedman’s lawyer.”
Jesse Friedman’s attorney, Ron Kuby, said the report dismissed key facts in the case.
"DA Rice spent three years whitewashing the prosecutorial and police misconduct in this case," Kuby told the New York Daily News, adding that the report "contains numerous outright falsehoods belied by the documentary evidence.”