CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – After serving 13 years in prison for sexually abusing children, a Long Island man whose family became the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary may have a chance at exoneration.
A federal judge ordered a hearing to determine if prosecutors wrongfully withheld evidence that police hypnotized at least one of the children who accused Jesse Friedman, the youngest member of the Great Neck, N.Y., family featured in "Capturing the Friedmans," newspapers reported Tuesday.
"I spent 13 years sitting in prison, realizing I never got a fair day in court," said Friedman, 38, who was paroled in 2001, in Tuesday editions of Newsday. "Now, I'm going to get a fair hearing. I never really had that opportunity before."
"Capturing the Friedmans," directed by Andrew Jarecki, was judged best nonfiction film in 2003 by the New York Film Critics Circle and won the documentary grand prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
Since the release of the documentary about the 1980s case, Friedman has fought to get a new day in court.
Friedman was 19 when he and his father, Arnold, then 56, pleaded guilty in 1988 to sex abuse charges alleging they molested children during computer classes in the basement of their home. The elder Friedman died in prison in 1995.
U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert in Central Islip rejected much of Jesse Friedman's claims but agreed to a hearing to examine whether prosecutors withheld "exculpatory" evidence from his attorneys.
In her ruling, she denied Friedman's request to reverse his guilty plea, saying that the statute of limitations on such arguments had run its course.
The Nassau County district attorney's office dismissed Friedman's claims that the child only recalled the abuse because he was hypnotized.
"We're not the slightest bit concerned," said Peter A. Weinstein, chief of appeals, in Tuesday editions of The New York Times.
Judith Steinberg, who is handling the case for the district attorney's office, said that the child knew what happened immediately. "Not months later in therapy," she said.
Friedman is classified as a sex offender, and remains barred from parks and other places children go because he is deemed a violent sexual predator, the highest risk category.