The Friedmans initially fought the charges. But when prosecutors responded by adding hundreds of new charges in successive indictments, Arnold decided he had no choice but to plead guilty. His collection of child porn was the only physical evidence in the case, and he feared that to fight would only mean pulling his son into the undertow as well.

But Arnold's plea had the opposite effect. To protect himself from new charges, Arnold submitted a "close-out statement," in which he offered a blanket confession to sexually abusing every student in every one of his classes—even those who had accused him of nothing. Police used his admissions to solicit still more accusations, telling parents that despite their children's repeated denials, Friedman had confessed to abusing them. Arnold's move only tightened the noose around Jesse.

Worse, Jesse's case was overseen by Judge Abbey Boklan, a former sex-crimes prosecutor. She would later confess to Jarecki—on camera—that she never had any doubt of the Friedmans' guilt.

Jesse and Arnold Friedman were indicted on hundreds of charges of rape and abuse.
Courtesy Friedman Family
Jesse and Arnold Friedman were indicted on hundreds of charges of rape and abuse.

Peter Panaro, Jesse's lawyer at the time, also says that Boklan—who died last year—warned him that if Jesse took his case to trial, she'd make sure he served his sentences consecutively, and he would face more than 1,000 years in prison.

The prosecutors' trump card was Jesse's friend Ross Goldstein, who police accused of joining the Friedmans' molestation.

The two teens were shocked by the news. Both say Goldstein never attended any of the computer classes. In fact, Goldstein was charged with abusing children in the Friedman home before he and Jesse ever met.

Nonetheless, prosecutors leveled 118 charges against him—even more than Arnold faced. Goldstein was left with a no-win scenario: either maintain his innocence before a hostile judge, or cut a deal and negotiate the best sentence possible.

The 17-year-old caved. In exchange for admitting that both he and Jesse had abused the kids, Goldstein was promised six months in jail and a cleansed record upon his release.

Feeling boxed in and facing life in prison, Jesse decided he had no choice but to take his own deal.

He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The court never heard a witness or saw any evidence.

Terrified of what awaited him in prison as a child molester, Jesse undertook some misguided damage-control. He gave an interview to Geraldo Rivera, inventing a story of his own abuse at the hands of his father.

Once in prison, Jesse reverted to maintaining his innocence—a position that led to being denied parole four times.

Arnold committed suicide in prison in 1995 by taking a massive overdose of antidepressants.

"Witch-hunt? No. To me, this is the Spanish Inquisition," said a man in the large crowd packed into the conference hall of the Inn at Great Neck last November. It was a popular sentiment. Twenty-five years since hysteria swept the town, memories of the Friedman case were still fresh enough to fill the room.

Andrew Jarecki had just screened his latest cinematic opus—an evidence reel that serves as an addendum to Capturing the Friedmans. Included were new interviews with some of the original victims, now grown up and admitting their claims were false.

Jesse Friedman and Elisabeth Walsh were at the screening, flanked by earpiece-wearing security guards in case passions still ran hot. Nearby, wearing his signature gray ponytail, was Jesse's lawyer Ron Kuby, a top-tier civil liberties attorney whose hyperbolic exuberance tends to take up even more space than his large suits.

Kuby joined Friedman's legal team in 2004, lending the high-profile muscle of a former partner of William Kunstler. His goal: to clear Jesse's name and free him from the "violent sex offender" designation that makes it all but impossible to hold a normal job, go to college, or even to have children, since he wouldn't be allowed to take them to school, day-care, or the park.

In 2004, Kuby filed a motion arguing that newly available evidence warranted reopening the case. The D.A. fought the petition, and successive courts rejected it on the grounds that it was filed too late.

But after years of appeals, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling. It agreed that Friedman's claim was filed too late, but it took the unusual step of delivering a scathing critique of the Friedman case.

The court ripped the hectoring and suggestive interview techniques of police, contending they "may have felt comfortable cutting corners in their investigation." The justices also slammed the D.A.'s office: "In this case, instead of acting to neutralize the moral panic, the prosecution allowed itself to get swept up in it."

The ruling noted that "the quality of the evidence was extraordinarily suspect." Taken together, the court said, "the record here suggests 'a reasonable likelihood' that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted."

"It was an extraordinary decision," says Kuby.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said she would reinvestigate the case, beginning a delicate balancing act. Though Rice wasn't on the scene when her office first prosecuted Jesse, complicated political implications remained. She was an elected official charged with investigating her predecessor's work in a case that still inflamed her constituents.

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24 comments
Ms125
Ms125

A recent three year, 155 page report by an Independent panel, including Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project and one of the country’s leading advocates for overturning wrongful convictions, strongly found that Jesse's conviction should not be overturned. 

“By any impartial analysis, the reinvestigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates and the Second Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender.... the preponderance of evidence pointed toward upholding the conviction.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/nyregion/friedmans-sexual-abuse-conviction-was-justified-report-says.html

ajweberman
ajweberman

A 2004 letter sent to the Oscars Committee, from two of the accusers, protested the Oscar nomination for “Capturing the Friedmans” and said the Friedmans’ victims had been exploited by the film. “We were abused, tortured, and humiliated by Arnold and Jesse Friedman in computer classes in Arnold’s basement,” it read. “Many of us have physical scars from what was done to us; all of us have psychological scars. Although it has been 16 years, we live with the knowledge of these crimes every day of our lives.” Figures the VV would come to the defense of these Jewish pre-verts as Henry Miller might have said. Look at its demographics.


Ms125
Ms125


On Geraldo, Jesse stated in explicit detail how he and his father had abused the children during their computer classes. Jesse stated that he and his father had threatened the children by telling them that they would hunt down their parents and burn their houses down if the children talked.

In 2004, the victims of the Friedmans spoke out. One victim stated that he still sometimes wakes up at night shaking, especially when he hears about other child abuse cases. He stated he has persistent rectal bleeding from the abuse.

An excellent resource for what really happened in this case is at:
http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/ctf/1.html

Ms125
Ms125


Jesse said in a 1989 interview that Arnold (his father) fondled and then later sodomized him. Jesse started seeing a psychiatrist at the age of 10 and he was diagnosed manic depressive.

From a search warrant in 1987 for the Friedman's home:

Materials from property seized included 5 pornographic movies, assorted order forms for pornography, assorted pornographic magazine cutouts, 2 partially nude photos of children, 3 sheets advertising homosexuality with boys, 6 photos of naked people and 3 battery operated sex aid.

The idea of suggestive therapy practices was contradicted by a statement by the two main clinicians who worked with the victims involved in the Friedman case. They stated that hypnosis was never used in the treatment of these children and that no therapy was offered at all until after all of the forensic evidence was gathered by the police.

Ms125
Ms125

In the original trial Arnold Friedman plead guilty to 8 counts of sodomy, 28 counts of first-degree sexual abuse, and he also admitted to ramming a child‘s head into a wall in front of other children. Jesse plead guilty to 17 counts of sodomy and 4 counts of first degree sexual abuse.

Arnold himself had an established history as a child molester. He had admitted to abusing his own brother when the brother was 8 years old.

The movie "Capturing the Friedmans" fails to mention that parents were not allowed into the classroom or that nine obscene computer games were found in Friedman“s classroom.

The movie left out information about Jesse‘s friend, Ross Goldstein. Ross witnessed and admitted to participating in the crimes. He could identify the victims and he would have testified in court. He pled guilty to 3 counts of first-degree sodomy. Both Ross and Jesse plead to one count of using a child in a sexual performance (pornography).

marble16
marble16

It is time the detectives pay for they committed a crime themselves!!

marble16
marble16

It is time the detectives pay! For they committed a crime themselves!!

karenkatzx13
karenkatzx13

the mcmartin case of mass hysteria ruined several lives and wreaked havoc in general to the town i grew up in.

stagehand
stagehand

In 1984 (appropriate year, Orwell) my then wife's divorce lawyer suggested that the best way to get custody of our three-year-old daughter was to charge me with incest.  My child, abducted by my wife, was subjected to the same techniques described in this article.  After a year and a half of denials, she gave up and started corroborating the lies of her mother. That commenced 7 years of hell for me, after which I was not only exonerated, I was given custody of my then 10-year-old.

I spent the next 15 years paying off my legal debts.  Worse, the whole ordeal left my daughter psychologically broken.  She's married now and estranged from both her parents.

What galls me about such cases is that no false accuser or complicit psychologist or prosecutor is EVER held legally accountable for the catastrophe they've created.  They are never even compelled to come up with a document saying, in effect, "Whoops!  My bad."  The damage persists for a lifetime.


ajweberman
ajweberman

The guy had child porn so even if he was innocent he still should have done the bid. 

hakon39
hakon39

No surprise.  The "justice" system in the United States isn't flawed, it's hopelessly broken. 

Time to start over.

TOSIAR

reptilegrrl
reptilegrrl

@Ms125 The claim from this "victim" alone should tell you it isn't true. 20 years later, he has persistent rectal bleeding? Really?

reptilegrrl
reptilegrrl

@Ms125 And recordings of the police interviews reveal that they threatened and coerced the children into saying what the cops wanted to hear.

reptilegrrl
reptilegrrl

@Ms125 You obviously haven't seen the film. It does specifically address the issue of the pornographic video games.

portiab
portiab

@hakon39 Amazing that false accusers like Crystal Magnum and Tig Notaro, and the bad cops, prosecutors, and judges face no real accountability for knowingly participating in such travesties. Charge the guy with possessing child porn and be done with it. Why is destroying lives by misuse of the law so tolerated? Why does the Village Voice promote the career of vicious false accusers like Tig Notaro?

Deni
Deni

@John R Penley Unless I missed it this report left out the fact that the father admitted to molesting two kids of family friends. That is in the film. And apparently the porn mags were hidden in plain sight so a lot of denial going on in the family. The father violated porn trafficking laws and that's what got the investigation started.

reptilegrrl
reptilegrrl

@Deni The porn was NOT in plain sight. The police claimed that it was, but the photos that the police took on the scene show no porn whatsoever in plain sight. It was all hidden. 


And what Jessie's father did is not relevant, because this is about Jessie's case.

marcelinosanchez148
marcelinosanchez148

@ajweberman @reptilegrrl  The father (Arnold Friedman) ordered the child pornography, not his son (Jesse Friedman). The father had ordered child pornography and the authorities from Switzerland, contacted the authorities in Long Island. Long Island police went in disguised to the father's house and delivered the magazine. The father signed for the magazine and when the police went in the house, the father was viewing the magazine and denied having the magazine. The son, had absolutely nothing to do with the child porn. So, I definitely agree with reptilegrrl. You need to work on your reading/comprehension skills. 

 
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