DA Will Reinvestigate Sex-Abuse Case Chronicled in Documentary

Prosecutors in Nassau County are responding to a critical federal appeals court opinion blasting the prosecution of a 1980s sex-abuse case chronicled in the documentary Capturing the Friedmans.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Tuesday that her office will reinvestigate the prosecution of Jesse Friedman with a panel of law enforcement, legal and social science experts, CNN reports.

Friedman, who spent 13 years in prison, reacted in an e-mail sent to CNN. “I am optimistic and hopeful for the first time in more years then I care to admit,” he wrote.

Jesse Friedman was only 17 when he was charged along with his father with molesting 13 children in the basement of their Long Island home during computer classes. He pleaded guilty, he has said, because he felt his defense would not be successful. His father committed suicide in prison.

The decision by the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friedman’s habeas petition had been filed too late, but the record in the case suggested “a reasonable likelihood” that Friedman was wrongfully convicted. The opinion blasted the judge who presided over the case for prejudging the evidence and prosecutors for getting swept up in the “moral panic” over ritualistic child abuse.

Police interviewed children repeatedly until they admitted abuse, the opinion (PDF) said, and rewarded cooperative children with pizza parties and police badges. Several children have since admitted they made up abuse allegations after aggressive questioning.

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