'Capturing the Friedmans' Son Sues DA
MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) - A son of a family whose prosecution for child sex allegations became the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary claims in court that the Nassau County's District Attorney's office defamed him as a "psychopath" after a federal appeals court found he may have been innocent.
Jesse Friedman sued Nassau County's top prosecutor Kathleen Rice and information officers John Byrne and Shams Tarek, in Nassau County Supreme Court.
"In the late '80s, in the midst of a national hysteria surrounding false allegations of mass sexual abuse of children in day care centers and schools (epitomized by the McMartin Pre-School case), Long Island teacher Arnold Friedman and his teenage son Jesse and another teenager, were charged with hundreds of counts of violent sexual abuse of children alleged to have occurred in computer classes offered in the Friedman home," attorney Ron Kuby wrote in the 17-page complaint.
After postal inspectors intercepted child pornography addressed to the elder Friedman, agents discovered that he kept a stash in his home, the Village Voice reported.
Friedman's students accused both father and son of serial sexual abuse after extensive police questioning that the family's defenders claim used suggestive and manipulative techniques.
Both pleaded guilty under "tremendous pressure from law enforcement and the community," the complaint states.
The father committed suicide in prison. The son was released in 2001.
Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki explored their case in his 2003 documentary "Capturing the Friedmans."
In 2010, the 2nd Circuit found there was a "'reasonable likelihood' that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted."
Later that year, Rice commissioned a report to review the case, which was released last summer.
According to the complaint, that report made "gratuitous, and knowingly false claims" blared in "promotional documents such as press releases and executive summaries, and in other direct communications with the tabloid press and other media."
Spanning 181 pages, Rice's "Conviction Integrity Review" stated that Friedman "was punished for writing and distributing 'fictional' stories that described violent and disturbing sexual acts, including incest, bestiality, and child rape."
The New York Post titled its article on Rice's report "Jailbird Perv a Smut Writer."
But Rice should have known that Friedman never wrote the stories because they included the author's email address and were printed with a high-quality laser printer, according to the complaint.
As an inmate at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, Friedman says he had only a manual typewriter and no Internet access.
"A simple 'Google search' of any distinctive phrase from the document would have instantly led to the actual source of the document, which is publicly available pornography written by and credited to others online," the complaint states.
Rice's report also quoted psychiatrist David Pogge as labeling Friedman a "psychopathic deviant."
According to the complaint, Pogge was "a novice psychologist just two years out of school at the time," and a defense expert blasted his assessment as "a generic, computer-generated report based on faulty input."
Friedman demands unspecified damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress and a retraction of the offending statements.
Kuby, his longtime pro bono attorney, is a well-known defender known for taking on controversial clients and having partnered with self-described "radical lawyer" Bill Kunstler.
Rice's spokesman Paul Leonard said in an email statement: "We view this lawsuit as meritless and will defend zealously against its allegations."