Jesse Friedman Spent 13 Years in Prison as a Notorious Child Rapist -- He May Soon Get an Apology

Uncapturing the Friedmans

Jesse Friedman Spent 13 Years in Prison as a Notorious Child Rapist -- He May Soon Get an Apology

The blocks tucked behind the railroad tracks and the I-95 overpass in Bridgeport, Connecticut,look much as you'd expect from a poor neighborhood in a foundering city.

Among run-down triple-deckers, the low brick slabs of the Marina Village housing project, and cracked cement lots, young men loiter on the corners, drinking out of paper bags. At the nearby University of Bridgeport, safety-minded administrators urge incoming freshman not to leave campus.

Standing on the front porch of his drab clapboard house, Jesse Friedman doesn't exactly blend in with the surrounding neighborhood, but neither does he seem out of place.

Jesse Friedman with his wife, Elisabeth Walsh, and their dog, Penny, photographed in their Bridgeport home this month
Willie Davis
Jesse Friedman with his wife, Elisabeth Walsh, and their dog, Penny, photographed in their Bridgeport home this month
Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki’s tireless investigation has uncovered reams of evidence 
of Friedman’s innocence.
Willie Davis
Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki’s tireless investigation has uncovered reams of evidence of Friedman’s innocence.

With his wire-rimmed glasses, and long strands of hair combed over male-pattern baldness, he could easily pass for older than his 46 years. He's an intense and guileless speaker, but there's a weariness to his lanky frame. Friedman leads the way up a creaking stair to a sunny living room, where he introduced his wife, Elisabeth Walsh, a hairstylist.

"This is a safe place for us, but I don't know if it's home forever," Friedman says as he perches next to his wife.

The truth is, they don't have many other options. As a Level 3 sex offender, Friedman is subject to a wide variety of restrictions known collectively as Megan's Law. They bar him from living near schools, playgrounds, day-care centers, and houses of worship—effectively banishing him from many cities altogether.

"Bridgeport has much bigger problems than registered sex offenders," Friedman says. "I'm relatively anonymous."

When Friedman was released from prison in 2001—after 13 years behind walls—he didn't look much like the 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 14 children in his father's home computer class.

Outside of Bridgeport, Friedman is hardly anonymous. He's the central figure in Andrew Jarecki's Oscar-nominated documentary, Capturing the Friedmans, which chronicled the harrowing story of Friedman's supposed crimes and the resulting panic that swept through Great Neck, Long Island, in 1988.

Today he's on the verge of a different sort of fame: Twenty-five years after it first indicted Friedman, the Nassau County District Attorney's Office is about to release a report that could completely exonerate him.

Out of a dozen major child-sex-ring cases that roiled the country between 1984 and 2005, Jesse's is one of the last convictions still standing. Nearly all of the 72 people found guilty in those cases have had their convictions vacated or overturned.

"When we really win this thing, it will hopefully inspire a lot more people," he says. "This case will become part of law school curriculum. That's where a lot of my hope lies, that it's making a difference somewhere, somehow."

Capturing the Friedmans examined the case of Jesse Friedman and his father, Arnold, who together pleaded guilty to hundreds of acts of rape and abuse against kids enrolled in after-school computer classes the pair ran from their home.

More disturbing than the film's subject was its disorienting ambiguity. Without ever quite taking sides, it unflinchingly probed the deeply flawed investigation, as well as the public hysteria surrounding it.

Jarecki could have moved on, riding his Oscar nomination to a Hollywood career. Instead, he's spent the last decade continuing to scrutinize Jesse's story, uncovering an ever-increasing body of proof that Jesse is innocent.

He's found evidence that prosecutors failed to share with Jesse's lawyers, supposed victims who have disavowed their original testimony. Last month, a principal witness broke a 25-year silence to recant his own accusations. Now, after nearly three years of reinvestigating, the D.A.'s office is expected to release its report in the next few weeks.

The story began in November of 1987, when postal inspectors intercepted a package of child pornography addressed to Arnold. A search of the Friedman home revealed Arnold's stash of 20 magazines containing child porn, hidden behind a piano in his home office.

Police fanned out, interviewing children who took Arnold's classes—mostly eight-to-10-year-olds—to see if any had been mistreated. Detectives didn't find much—at least initially. Until the search, no one had raised suspicions about the Friedmans. In fact, most kids eagerly re-enrolled in the classes.

During a meeting with parents a month after the raid, police admitted that not one of the 30 children they had interviewed so far reported any kind of abuse.

But detectives were still convinced that something occurred. So they kept re-interviewing the children—some as many as 15 times, and often for hours at a stretch. They used suggestive techniques, telling the kids they already knew something had happened.

The children began to buckle, telling tales of extraordinary abuse.

The result was a string of indictments. Arnold and Jesse were charged with hundreds of counts of sodomy, sexual abuse, and employing a minor in an obscene performance.

In the portrait painted by prosecutors, the Friedmans' computer class was a nonstop nightmare of coerced sex acts, where Arnold and Jesse abused kids both singly and in groups, in plain view of other students. According to prosecutors, the Friedmans managed to keep it all quiet with threats of violence should their victims ever talk.

But some of the claims strained credulity. Arnold and Jesse were accused of playing "naked leapfrog," sodomizing kids as they jumped from one to the next. One eight-year-old victim supposedly sodomized teenagers twice his age. And yet another student's accusations led to 124 separate counts against the Friedmans. If true, that would mean that the child was molested an average of six times during every one of the 20 90-minute classes they took.

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26 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 topcommenter

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 topcommenter

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.

summitace14
summitace14

@stagehand  It's crazy how people who loved each other can be told to create such impossible vicious lies...only to have people believe what they should know to be untrue. Very sorry for your pain and loss of your daughter.  Can think of nothing worse than to be accused of sexually hurting someone.

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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