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Friedman fights for access to Nassau court documents

Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki (second from l.) speaks to reporters following a court hearing involving convicted child molester Jesse Friedman (second from r.). AP Photo/Frank Eltman
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Jesse Friedman celebrated a small victory in his ongoing fight to clear his name, but will still have to wait after years of professing he was wrongly coerced into pleading guilty to child molestation charges in 1988.

State Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow ordered Nassau County prosecutors last week to grant Friedman access to virtually every piece of paper related to his court case, records showed. The judge’s decision came as a result of Friedman’s legal team filing an appeal after Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice denied their Freedom of Information Law request for the documents back in April.

But the ultimate fate of the ruling remained to be determined after prosecutors filed an appeal of the decision with the Appellate Division Tuesday, documents showed.

Friedman, 46, of Great Neck, L.I., waited three years for Rice’s legal team to release its findings after investigating claims that he was wrongfully convicted in 1989, but was ultimately not vindicated. Rice put out a report in June once again declaring Friedman was rightfully convicted.

“Instances of wrongful conviction are real and exist in far greater numbers than any of us would like to admit. Wrongful convictions undermine public safety, and they pose the greatest threat there is to the integrity required of our justice system,” Rice said as part of a 155-page report, which used information gathered by an independent review team. “But the case against Jesse Friedman is not one of them.”

Friedman later said he planned on bringing his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorney Ron Kuby called on Nassau County prosecutors to release court documents so the public can take an unprecedented look at Friedman’s case more than two decades later.

“Only the disclosure of the original statements and police reports will permit an accurate and truthful evaluation of Friedman’s guilt or innocence,” Kuby said. “The statements were created by the police. None of the alleged victims came forward with allegations outside of interviews with detectives. Every assertion in this case emerged from an interview and was composed into statement form by detectives.”

Friedman, the subject of the popular documentary “Capturing the Friedmans,” and his father Arnold were arrested in May 1989 on multiple charges of child molestation involving the abuse of students in an after-school computer class at their Great Neck home.

Then 19, the younger Friedman pleaded guilty to all of the charges and an investigation found that child porn was also being mailed to his father, a retired Bayside High School science teacher, at their home, prompting police to question the 8- to 10-year-olds in the class.

He later said he only submitted the guilty plea to avoid a life sentence and investigators unlawfully coerced some of the children to provide false testimonies.

Jesse Friedman spent 13 years in prison before he was paroled in 2001 with the everlasting label of registered sex offender. His father killed himself in prison in 1995.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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