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A panel of federal appeals judges ruled this week not to overturn a Great Neck, L.I., man’s conviction made famous in the documentary “Capturing the Friedmans,” but they called for the sexual abuse case against the son of a former Bayside HS teacher to be reopened.
Jesse Friedman and his father, Arnold Friedman, pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing children who were taking computer classes in their Great Neck home.
Arnold Friedman, who killed himself in prison in 1995, was a retired Bayside High School chemistry teacher.
At the time of the case, Jesse Friedman said he was scared he would not get a fair trial in Nassau County, so he accepted a plea bargain.
Friedman, now 40, served 13 years in prison and was paroled in 2001, but has tried to clear his name ever since.
Judges Rosemary Pooler, Reena Raggi and Edward Kormann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Monday to deny Friedman’s petition to overturn his conviction.
“While the law may require us to deny relief in this case, it does not compel us to do so without voicing some concern regarding the process by which the petitioner’s conviction was obtained,” the ruling said.
The judges also found that “the petitioner has come forward with substantial evidence that flawed interviewing techniques were used to produce a flood of allegations.”
The panel said there is a “reasonable likelihood that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted” and suggested that “only a reinvestigation of the underlying case or the development of a complete record in a collateral proceeding can provide a basis for determining whether petitioner’s conviction should be set aside.”
Carole Trottere, a spokeswoman for Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, said “we are reviewing the decision and will be giving the court’s opinion serious thought and consideration.”
Ron Kuby, Friedman’s attorney, could not be reached for comment.
On his website, freejesse.net, Friedman wrote that he had “mixed feelings” about the ruling.
“It is sad that while the court so clearly understood the likelihood of there being indisputable proof of my innocence within the investigation record, they were bound by procedural law to deny my petition for relief,” he wrote.
Andrew Jarecki’s Oscar-nominated 2003 documentary “Capturing the Friedmans,” brought attention to the family’s saga.
Arnold Friedman was 55 and his son 19 at the time of their arrest on multiple counts of rape, sodomy and child abuse.
The father had been teaching computer classes to boys aged 8-15 at his home for several years when he was arrested by U.S. Postal Service inspectors on charges of receiving child pornography in the mail.
A search of his home turned up a single stack of pornographic magazines. The Nassau County Police Department then began its own investigation.
Police interviewed former and current students and assembled a list of sexual details from the teenagers, ranging from naked games of “leapfrog” to rape. One student said he was raped 30 times in a 10 weeks and 41 times in another 10-week period.
But there was no physical evidence and none of the students told their parents until after Arnold Friedman’s arrest by the USPS, this week’s court ruling said. Doctors did not find anything physically wrong with the teenagers during checkups.
Jesse Friedman alleged that some of the accusers had been hypnotized before they testified to grand juries, and only one unidentified former student appeared in Jarecki’s film.
No photos or videos of any sex acts involving the Friedmans ever surfaced and police found no proof of abuse. According to the court ruling, detectives taunted children they interviewed in the case for not offering “desired answers.”
Arnold Friedman confessed to possessing child pornography and to sexually assaulting boys while on family vacations as well as to the charges brought against him in Nassau County in the hopes that his son would be spared, the appeals court judges said.
But Jesse Friedman remained in prison seven years beyond the minimum sentence arranged in his plea deal after refusing to admit wrongdoing as part of a prison-mandated program.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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