Jesse Friedman abuse victims deserve to move on

Newsday Columnist Joye Brown talks about the Nassau District Attorney's report on the Jesse Freedman case and how it's time to allow the victims to move on with their lives. (June 28, 2013)

Joye Brown

Newsday columnist Joye Brown Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006.

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Jesse Friedman got just what he wanted with a three-year review of his conviction of sexually abusing 13 boys.

He didn't get the result he wanted, but he did get a very thorough airing.

And so, for the first time, did the rest of us, with the Nassau County district attorney's office providing more than 150 pages detailing a horrific litany of crimes that occurred in computer classes taught by Friedman's father, Arnold, in the family's Great Neck home.

Boys found themselves sexually assaulted by father and son and terrorized into silence, with the younger Friedman threatening to kill parents and burn down boys' homes, according to the review.

Ultimately, some of the children did speak. Among them were boys, from ages 8 to 15, who gave statements about being forced to perform sex acts on the Friedmans and on each other.

The review made for difficult reading. And a portion describing a report from a child in one room hearing screams of a child being assaulted in another room is chilling.

Friedman pleaded guilty, confessing to his crimes in 1988. And he's done his time. But he's also gone on to convince a team of filmmakers and others of his innocence.

Last week, Friedman's attorney, Ron Kuby of Manhattan, sparred with a representative from the Nassau DA's office over whether Friedman had -- as indicated in the review -- possessed pornographic material while in prison.

The hearing was part of Friedman's decade-long effort at vindication. Friedman is asking Supreme Court Justice Dana Winslow to release the original case file and grand jury minutes, which, Kuby said, he is entitled to see.

Still, the conclusion of the review by District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office -- bolstered by an independent advisory panel that included Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project -- is difficult to simply push aside.

And that includes a portion of the document where a psychiatrist hired by Friedman's lawyer found him to be a "psychopathic deviant" capable of his crimes.

The report did note some flaws in the initial investigation, but not enough to acquit Friedman. And thus Friedman's fight to clear his name continues.

But what about the children?

Some of them decided not to talk to the DA's investigators because they said they wanted to put the past behind them.

Yet their voices -- along with voices of other victims -- come through loudest in reading the review, even a quarter century after Friedman's guilty pleas.

What about the boys who endured abuse, the ones who screamed and heard screaming? They're being forced, as 30-year-olds, and some even as parents, to re-shoulder the burdens of the past.

"Our feeling is one of outrage that we still have to deal with this and bring this up and having to relive this 27 years later," one victim's mother told Newsday. " . . . I do consider what has been going on a harassment of the victims."

She's right. The victims deserve to move on.