CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – A man who served 13 years in prison in a sex abuse case that was profiled in an acclaimed documentary said a court hearing left him hopeful about his chances for exoneration.
Jesse Friedman said he was "very optimistic" after a federal magistrate judge heard evidence Wednesday on whether he waited too long to appeal. There was no indication when the judge would rule on his request for his conviction to be overturned.
The appeal hinges on information in "Capturing the Friedmans," an Oscar-nominated 2003 documentary about his case.
A teenage Friedman and his father, Arnold, pleaded guilty in 1988 to molesting children during computer classes in the basement of their home in Great Neck, on Long Island. Arnold Friedman committed suicide in prison in 1995.
Jesse Friedman, now 38, was paroled in 2001. He remains barred from parks and other places children frequent because he is classified as a violent sexual predator.
His lawyers say prosecutors wrongfully withheld evidence that emerged in the film -- that police hypnotized at least one of the children who accused him.
Wednesday's hearing concerned whether Friedman had filed his federal appeal within legal time limits. His lawyer, Ron Kuby, contended Friedman did; assistant Nassau County District Attorney Judith Sternberg argued he did not. They differed over when the legal time clock began ticking.
Judge Joanna Seybert did not say when she would rule. If she finds in Friedman's favor on the timing issues, a hearing will follow on questions about the hypnosis.
Nassau County police and prosecutors have stood by the case, and state courts have rejected Friedman's appeals twice in the past three years.
But Friedman said Wednesday, "I'm not a child molester, and I'm not ever going to rest until I prove to the courts and to the world that I'm not a child molester."
"Capturing the Friedmans," directed by Andrew Jarecki, won several awards, including best nonfiction film of 2003 from New York Film Critics Circle. Jarecki has said his film is balanced, not an advocacy film for the defense, but that he was "very supportive" of Friedman's quest for a new trial.