A state Supreme Court justice has ordered the Nassau district attorney's office to respond to convicted sex offender Jesse Friedman's request to release several key documents in his case by the end of the month, unless prosecutors complete a long-awaited report reexamining the evidence.
An assistant district attorney said in court Tuesday that his office will finish the report by June 28, barring "unforeseen circumstances." Justice Dana Winslow said at that point he would revisit the issue of releasing the documents.
But if the report has not been completed by then, Winslow ordered prosecutors to respond to Friedman's legal motion asking for the documents.
Friedman and his father, Arnold, both pleaded guilty to sexually abusing more than a dozen young boys who took computer classes in the basement of their Great Neck home. Arnold Friedman was 64 when he killed himself in prison in 1995. Jesse Friedman served 13 years and was paroled in 2001.
Despite his guilty plea and subsequent media interviews from prison in which he described molesting boys, the younger Friedman has recanted and claimed innocence. He is still registered as a Level 3 sex offender.
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice had agreed to review Friedman's conviction three years ago after the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that denied Friedman's bid to withdraw his 1988 guilty plea, but criticized the handling of the case.
As he has awaited Rice's decision on whether she will ask for the conviction to be vacated, Friedman has asked for the original case file and grand jury minutes. Friedman's lawyer, Ron Kuby, of Manhattan, said he is entitled to see them since witnesses in the original case have recanted to him and have said they believe their statements to the police at the time were mischaracterized.
Rice's office denied Friedman's bid to get the documents under the Freedom of Information law. Then in April, Kuby filed the legal motion asking the judge to compel Rice to release the documents.
Kuby said: "When we asked for some transparency in the process, we were repeatedly told no."
But Rice spokesman John Byrne said: "To protect child sex crime victims and their privacy, as well as the time-honored secrecy of the grand jury, prosecutors are precluded from disclosing the sensitive information that Mr. Kuby has requested."
In court with his wife, Lisabeth Walsh, Friedman said Tuesday it's been a long wait for Rice's decision. "An exoneration at this point is going to change my life in ways I can't even imagine," he said, adding that he is certain his name will be cleared.
"For Kathleen Rice to uphold the conviction at this point, I can't even imagine the ways in which she would have to contort the truth," Friedman said.
The makers of "Capturing the Friedmans," an award-winning documentary about the case, have presented evidence to a panel of independent experts that Rice appointed to review the conviction.
They say the evidence casts new doubts on his guilt and they have interviewed several of Friedman's alleged victims on video, who now say they were never abused.