FROM: Lonnie Soury, Soury Communications, Inc. 212.414.5857, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Release
JESSE FRIEDMAN SUES NASSAU COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY KATHLEEN RICE FOR DEFAMATION
Rice Knowingly Published False Materials Damaging to Jesse Friedman and Released Them to the New York Post and the New York Times
(Mineola, NY, Thursday, June 19, 2014) Jesse Friedman, who was wrongfully convicted for child sexual abuse in a mass hysteria case in 1988, chronicled in the Oscar-nominated film Capturing the Friedmans, today filed a defamation suit against Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice for knowingly publishing false and defamatory statements in a report summarizing her review of Friedman’s 1988 conviction (the Rice Report). The suit names Kathleen Rice, in her official capacity as Nassau DA and individually, as well as her public information officers John Byrne and Shams Tarek, in their official capacity and individually.
Rice’s Report and the accompanying press release included dozens of false statements. In one example, DA Rice made the entirely fabricated claim that Jesse Friedman “wrote, possessed and distributed” shocking pornography involving incest, bestiality, and child rape while he was in prison. The DA provided as proof a printout of a series of shocking pornographic stories that had absolutely no connection to Jesse Friedman. The report was widely distributed to the public and leaked to the tabloid media by her office. In another example, the DA’s report includes a false psychological evaluation by a discredited psychologist.
DA Rice not only published the false and defamatory material in the report, but highlighted it in press releases to turn public opinion against Jesse Friedman. Shortly after releasing the report, the DA’s publicity officer John Byrne distributed copies of the alleged stories to the New York media causing sensational headlines.
Rice directed her subordinates to supply the text of these materials to, at least, the New York Times and theNew York Post. In response to receipt of these materials, the New York Post published a series of false and salacious news stories under the headlines:
— Jailbird Perv a Smut Writer
— Convicted Child Molester Jesse Friedman Wrote Porno Stories During His Time In Prison
— DA: Convicted child molester Jesse Friedman found with porno stories during his time in prison.”
The stories provided details of the pornography and stated that Friedman “was disciplined in July 2000 after prison guards found the stomach-churning smut in his cell.” That same day, at least fourteen other publications with the headline “Perv was a ‘Horny’ Jailbird Smut Writer,” published variations of the story, each linking to the New York Post. The Associated Press, which reaches news outlets in hundreds of markets across the United States, also ran a story sourcing the false material released by DA Kathleen Rice.
A standard Google search of any of the text attributed to Jesse Friedman reveals instantly that it is material available on the Internet, written by and credited to someone else, whose email address appears at the bottom with an invitation to contact her. As the DA was well aware, Jesse Friedman was incarcerated at a maximum-security prison, and had no access to the Internet for downloading such stories, nor did he have an email address. Jesse Friedman did not “write,” “possess,” or “distribute” this material.
According to the defamation suit: “This claim arises from acts or omissions of the defendants, and alleges multiple false and defamatory statements that were designed to, and did, harm Friedman in his reputation, enjoyment of life, quality of life, and economic interests. These acts and omissions include publishing statements that Friedman was punished while in prison for writing and distributing horrific pornography that described acts similar to those for which Friedman was convicted, and statements alleging that Friedman was a psychopath. These were false and defamatory statements of material fact, and Rice and her agents knew, or it is highly likely that they knew, that these statements were false. The purpose of such statements, as noted in court by Nassau County Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow, J.S.C., was to portray Friedman publicly as a “‘bad guy.’”
Friedman’s attorney, Ronald L. Kuby, said, “The DA falsely accused Jesse of having written horrific pornography celebrating the very kinds of crimes of which he had been accused. And she timed the false claims so they appeared in the press at a time when they would have the greatest negative impact on Jesse – while all eyes in Long Island and elsewhere were watching for the DA’s three-year-delayed verdict in her so-called “unbiased review” of the Jesse Friedman case. The fact that they also showed these false materials to the members of a panel charged with overseeing the DA’s investigation, reveals the DA’s desire to undermine any fair re-evaluation of this case.”
When challenged on the statement in a later court hearing, rather than admit the mistake, the DA’s office accused Friedman’s counsel of forging the documents that disproved it. Days later, the DA’s office conceded that Friedman did not possess the pornography, could not possibly have penned the pornography, and was never punished for it in prison. When Jesse Friedman’s counsel requested that she withdraw all the false claims from her Report and inform the press, he received no response, and she did not withdraw the false claims.
Further, DA Rice also published and quoted from the irresponsible work of a then-novice psychologist, David Pogge, (falsely identifying him as a “renowned psychiatrist,”) that contained a series of unsubstantiated personal attacks on Friedman, including the utterly unsubstantiated claim that Jesse Friedman was a “psychopath.” Friedman’s attorneys had already informed Rice that Pogge had a disqualifying conflict of interest he did not disclose at the time he met Jesse Friedman, and that Pogge’s evaluation was unreliable and was based on the computerized output of a test administered in a manner directly in conflict with the test’s written instructions. Jesse Friedman, who is highly educated and mentally competent, has never been diagnosed with any such illness. Having been informed directly that the information contained therein was false, Rice made additional materially false and defamatory statements in her Report and Executive Summary, publicizing psychologist Pogge’s false evaluation in which he used dozens of unsubstantiated epithets to defame Jesse including:
“psychopathic deviant,” “a psychopath,” “self-centered, manipulative, egocentric,” someone who “abused drugs,” “extremely egocentric,” “capable of breaking the law,” “narcissistic, antisocial, passive-aggressive, badly behaved,” “a very heavy drug user” and “drug dependent,” “pansexual,” someone whose “personality was consistent with someone who was capable of committing the crimes with which he was charged,” “someone who believed he was better than other people,” someone who “lies all the time, and derives gratification from fooling others,” and was “not a good citizen.”
These statements were repeated, in shorter form, in the Press Release issued by DA Rice’s office. Despite having been informed in writing of Dr. Pogge’s conflict of interest and his mishandling of Friedman’s evaluation, Rice used Dr. Pogge’s discredited evaluation as a pretext to further defame Friedman.
In 1988, in the midst of a national hysteria regarding false allegations of mass sexual abuse of children at schools and day care centers (epitomized by the now-discredited McMartin Case), police alleged that Jesse Friedman, his father Arnold, and other teenagers, had violently abused hundreds of children attending after-school computer classes at the Friedmans’ Great Neck home. The charges were suspect from the beginning, since no physical or forensic evidence was ever found, no pediatrician or parent ever noted any sign of abuse — and, in five years of classes, no child ever complained, with many re-enrolling for more advanced classes. The judge in the case stated “there was never a doubt in my mind as to their guilt,” despite never having seen a single piece of evidence at trial, and threatened to sentence him to consecutive, rather than concurrent sentences, unless he pled guilty.
Under tremendous pressure from law enforcement and in a climate of community hysteria, Friedman falsely confessed and spent 13 years in prison before being paroled. Since completing his sentence with an excellent prison record, Friedman and his wife Elisabeth, have been fighting for his exoneration. He is still classified as a “Level 3, Violent Sexual Predator,” barred from many basic activities. Despite their model behavior, Jesse and his wife have been evicted from numerous apartments and barred from various religious congregations as a result of his legal status.
Friedman’s battle would likely be futile and anonymous, if not for the case’s rise to prominence with the 2003 release of the Academy Award nominated documentary Capturing the Friedmans, produced by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling. In the film, detectives and prosecutors working on the case admit to harassing and coercing children in an effort to substantiate charges for which there was zero physical or medical evidence. In addition, children in the class reveal that nothing happened to them, despite the bizarre charge that mass child rape happened in plan view of all the students.
Since the film, a mountain of new evidence has come to light revealing misconduct by police, prosecutors, and the biased judge. In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a scathing opinion, denouncing the Nassau County District Attorney’s handling of the Jesse Friedman prosecution, stating it was “reasonably likely” Friedman was wrongfully convicted and his guilty plea was coerced by a biased judge. The Court stated that the case should be re-evaluated, and the Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice rather than order a court hearing, volunteered – against complaints that having a district attorney’s office evaluate a conviction procured by her own office – to initiate a full and “unbiased” review of the case.
Three years later, the DA issued a report that has been widely seen as a severely biased effort to reaffirm Friedman’s original conviction 26 years ago.
In August, 2013, Nassau Supreme Court Judge, F. Dana Winslow issued an important decision in ordering the complete investigative file in the Friedman case, dating back 26 years, to be turned over to the defense. The Nassau DA appealed the decision to the Appellate Court, Second Department. Oral arguments in the case are expected shortly.
Despite DA Kathleen Rice’s continued denial of Friedman’s innocence claims, a motion will soon be filed in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County seeking to vacate his 1988 conviction based upon actual innocence claims. The chief prosecution witness, and numerous alleged victims, are among more than 25 eyewitnesses to the computer classes who state that “nothing untoward happened in the computer classes in Jesse Friedman’s home.”
For more information about Jesse Friedman’s wrongful conviction, go to www.freejesse.net.
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