- Eric SchneidermanAttorney General
- Andrew M. CuomoGovernor
Overturn Wrongful Conviction of Jesse Friedman - Join the filmmakers behind award-winning "Capturing the Friedmans"
After 25 years of persecution, Jesse Friedman deserves justice. Please join us in asking New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to follow the recommendation of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and to support the overturning of his wrongful conviction.
Please sign our petition below.
Following years of investigation by the filmmakers, and efforts by Jesse’s attorneys, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found a “reasonable likelihood that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted” and his guilty plea was coerced by a biased Judge.
We are asking the Governor and Attorney General to support our case, after Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice’s recent failure to overturn Jesse Freidman’s wrongful conviction, despite being provided with overwhelming evidence of Jesse’s innocence. After years of legal roadblocks -- including the three-year secretive "review" by the same office that originally prosecuted the case in 1988 -- we are now in a position to return to court and reveal the exculpatory evidence that Rice's office has intentionally withheld from the public.
The evidence we have gathered in support of Friedman’s exoneration is striking. As we interviewed Jesse’s 14 former accusers -- now men in their 30s -- many recanted their accusations. One, now a successful physician, said:
“As God is my witness and on my children’s lives, I was never raped or sodomized, and I never saw a kid sodomized or molested. And if I said it, it was not because it happened, it was because someone else put those words in my mouth.”
The charges were patently absurd: police alleged that over a period of 5 years, hundreds of 8-12 year old children had been violently raped in plain view of all the other students in their computer classes. However, no student had ever complained, no parent had ever noticed anything out of the ordinary when they came to pick up their kids, and no pediatrician had ever noted any sign of abuse.
As in the McMartin Preschool case -- the most famous of the false child sexual abuse cases of the period -- police accused the Friedmans of implausible crimes such as “nude leapfrog” in which children were said to have been serially sodomized by groups of adults “leaping” from one child to the next.
In addition, police illegally hid evidence that would have allowed Jesse to mount a defense, like the fact that of the first 30 children police interviewed, not one recalled any abuse. Without access to this information, Jesse was given no choice but to accept a guilty plea or spend the rest of his life in prison for crimes that had never occurred.
Among the reams of evidence demonstrating Friedman’s innocence are over twenty-five statements from eyewitnesses to the computer classes stating that no abuse occurred ‒ despite prosecution claims that children were raped in “plain view.” These include recantations by five now adult students whom police stated were sexually abused and appeared before a grand jury, who now attest they were coerced by investigators into alleging sexual abuse that never occurred. The new evidence also includes a complete recantation by the prosecution’s only adult witness, Ross Goldstein, who admitted having been “coached” by prosecutors and police to provide false testimony, as well as dozens of students and parents who have come forward to testify that nothing happened in after-school computer classes in the Friedman home in 1988.
Join us in asking Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman to support the overturning of Jesse’s wrongful conviction, by signing the petition below.
The charges against Jesse Friedman were based on coerced testimony elicited from young children by police using “memory recovery” techniques now proven to cause false testimony. Children as young as eight years old were interrogated repeatedly by police under hostile conditions, in one case returning to the child’s home fifteen times in the face of the child’s repeated statement that no abuse had occurred. Children who cooperated were rewarded with deputy badges and pizza parties. Children who did not were threatened by officers that they would become homosexuals or child molesters themselves if they refused to “disclose” their abuse.
Today, despite exemplary behavior as a parolee, Jesse has been denied work, barred from entry into four religious congregations, and evicted repeatedly from rental apartments when landlords learned of his conviction. He and his wife are, in practical terms, prevented from having a child of their own, since someone designated as a “Level III Violent Sexual Predator” is prohibited from performing simple parenting tasks like picking up a child at school or arranging a play date.
Sexual abuse of children is a real and destructive crime. But false prosecutions like those that swept the nation in the 80’s and 90’s rob resources from the prosecution of actual sex crimes, reduce public faith in such prosecutions, and interfere with the welfare of children they are supposed to protect.
Let the healing begin for Jesse and his wife Elisabeth, and the many Long Island families who were falsely told their children were harmed 25 years ago.
Sign our petition, share this page, and share our website, FreeJesse.org. Every action helps.
If you have any information about the case, please call our confidential hotline at 516-660-4385.
Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling
- Attorney General
Andrew M. Cuomo
We are writing to ask you to support the overturning of the wrongful conviction of Jesse Friedman.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found a “reasonable likelihood Jesse was wrongfully convicted” and that his guilty plea was the result of threats made by a biased Judge who publicly stated “There was never a doubt in my mind as to Jesse’s guilt” despite never having seen a single piece of evidence at trial. The Court stated the Judge’s threat of maximum sentencing was “impermissibly coercive,” and enough to vitiate the plea.
However, if this weren’t sufficient, (1) a substantial portion of Jesse’s 14 accusers have already recanted their original false testimony, confirming they were coerced by police, (2) students who sat alongside every alleged victim in each class where police claimed abuse had occurred “in plain view” state they did not witness any such abuse, and (3) police who interviewed the children have themselves admitted to using bullying tactics -- in some cases interviewing small children for as long as seven hours at a time -- to procure testimony from children who otherwise had recalled no abuse.
Beyond the damage to Jesse and his wife Elisabeth, the Friedman case harmed hundreds of families in the Long Island community, who were falsely led to believe that their children had been violently abused.
We request that you support Jesse’s exoneration and allow healing to begin for the many families affected by these events.
Andrew Jarecki & Marc Smerling started this petition with a single signature, and now has 3,453 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.