The New York State Court of Appeals will review whether convicted sex offender and former Great Neck resident Jesse Friedman can access his full case file to try proving his innocence, decades after pleading guilty, on April 26.
This decision comes after an appellate court ruled that the Nassau County District Attorney’s office did not need to give Friedman his full criminal file, save for the victim’s names. Friedman had sought the files through a Freedom of Information Law request.
That reversed the 2013 decision of Nassau Court Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow, who reviewed the files and ordered the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office to turn over “every single piece of paper” related to the case to Friedman.
Lonnie Soury, a spokesperson for Jesse Friedman, described the upcoming April 26 oral arguments at the NY State Court of Appeals as a means to reopen the case files, push against laws harmful to the civil rights of defendants, and resume Friedman’s scheduled innocence hearing.
“It’s a very important hearing not jut in Jesse Friedman’s case, but in all defendants’,” Soury said, noting cases of overturned convictions.
“Often, there’s evidence of innocence in those files,” Soury added.
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said there might be evidence suggesting Friedman’s wrongful conviction in 2010. A following three-year investigation by former District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office suggested otherwise.
“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,” Rice said at the time. “This exhaustive and impartial process has only strengthened the justice system’s confidence that Jesse Friedman was involved in the sexual abuse of children.”
Soury debated that claim, saying that the “Rice report” had made false allegations such as Friedman writing pornography while in prison and ignored “tremendous evidence” that contradicted the report. He also noted that five children who allegedly made claims against Jesse Friedman recanted testimony.
“We’re looking for justice. We believe our evidence is overwhelming,” Soury said. “It was bizarre at the time, but Jesse [Friedman] was in no position to fight this case.”
During the 1987 case, police alleged that Jesse Friedman, his father Arnold, and three other teenagers abused hundreds of children attending after-school computer classes in the Friedmans’ basement. The Friedman duo pleased guilty to abusing thirteen boys in 1988.
Jesse Friedman served 13-years in maximum security prisons and is currently branded a level III “violent sexual predator.” Friedman was released on parole in 2001, but then retracted his guilty plea. He said that law enforcement and officials coerced his confession and that they manipulated false claims from the alleged victims.
His father committed suicide in prison in 1995.
Andrew Jarecki chronicled Friedman’s claims to innocence in the 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary “Capturing the Friedmans.”