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'Capturing The Friedmans' Filmmaker Pushes For Jesse Friedman's Exoneration

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CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS
A still from the "Justice for Jesse" video reel, part of the campaign to exonerate Jesse Friedman, whose case was chronicled in the film "Capturing the Friedmans." | Justice For Jesse

NEW YORK -- The lawyer for the Long Island man at the heart of the documentary film "Capturing the Friedmans" thinks there are signs that a probe led by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice will not exonerate him of the child molestation charges he pled guilty to as a teenager in 1988.

Ron Kuby, the lawyer for Jesse Friedman, said it now appears the probe could close as soon as April. He is troubled by his impression that Rice's office will not decide in his client's favor.

"Every sign and signal portends doom in this case. And every conversation any of us have with the prosecutor's office is one worse thing after another," Kuby said Tuesday, speaking at a gathering of Friedman's supporters in Manhattan.

The only reason he holds out any hope, he said, is the involvement of Barry Scheck, the defense lawyer and director of the Innocence Project. Schneck is sitting on a panel overseeing the probe.

Rice has been leading an investigation into alleged police and prosecutorial misconduct in Friedman's case since 2010, when the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Friedman's attempt to overturn his conviction on a technicality but asked local authorities to reopen the case.

Hoping to persuade Rice to support overturning Friedman's conviction, the filmmakers behind "Capturing the Friedmans" have launched a petition website. It includes a video reel of witnesses and accusers in the case, some of whom have now recanted their allegations against Friedman and his father, Arnold, who was also convicted.

"What we're trying to do is try to create some order, and try to keep the Nassau DA focused on it, almost as a political matter," said Andrew Jarecki, the director of the film.

A spokesperson for Rice's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Jarecki's film, released in 2003, was nominated for an Academy Award. Its depiction of the Friedmans' highly publicized trial in the small Long Island community of Great Neck launched a flurry of discussion about whether a "moral panic" wrongly forced Jesse Friedman to admit his guilt. The Second Circuit's decision endorsed that argument.

Friedman, now 43, was released in 2001 after serving 13 years in prison, but still hopes to clear his name and start a family with his wife.

"I'm prohibited from being to school," he said. "I couldn't drop the kid off, I couldn't pick the kid up. I couldn't go the PTA meeting."

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