Jesse Friedman asks court to set aside his 1988 child molestation conviction

Friedman, who pleaded guilty in a highly charged Great Neck child molestation case, is asking a court to overturn his 1988 plea and set aside his conviction. His attorney, Ronald Kuby of Manhattan, filed a motion in Nassau County Court in Mineola on June 24, 2014, the latest effort in a yearslong battle by Friedman and his supporters to clear his name. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

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Jesse Friedman, who pleaded guilty in a high-profile Great Neck child sex abuse case, is asking a court to overturn his 1988 plea and set aside his conviction.

Manhattan attorney Ronald Kuby filed the legal motion on Monday in Nassau County Court in Mineola, the latest effort in a yearslong battle by Friedman and his supporters to clear his name.

"I never committed a crime against any child, ever," Friedman, 45, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said Tuesday.

The court filing seeks an evidentiary hearing on his conviction "based on actual innocence" and includes an affidavit from attorney Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project. Scheck was on an advisory panel to Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice's conviction review team, which found in 2013 that Friedman's conviction was justified.

He wrote in the affidavit that he hadn't made judgments about facts of the case. But he said he was concerned about "conviction integrity" process issues and urged the court to hold a hearing, saying the merits of Friedman's criticisms of Rice's findings "should be adjudicated by the court."

Rice spokesman Shams Tarek said her office would review the new filing and "respond as needed in court." He also said independent prosecutors had spent hundreds of hours reviewing the case and guilty plea -- a review that the advisory panel, he said, "declared to be as thorough and fair as possible."

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Friedman has long claimed police manipulated children into making false claims against him, and says he pleaded guilty because he didn't want to spend his life in prison, if convicted at trial. Friedman's innocence claims were featured in an Oscar-nominated documentary.

Standing with his wife, Lisabeth Walsh, 35, Friedman said Tuesday their lives are hampered by his sex-offender status. He said he runs an online business, and that his wife and pets are the most important parts of what he called "a very small life because of the conviction."

Friedman's new legal motion follows his lawsuit last week against Rice and two of her spokesmen that claimed she defamed Friedman by alleging he was a "psychopath" who had pornography while in prison.

Last year, Friedman asked an appellate court to compel prosecutors to turn over his criminal case file after Rice's office challenged a State Supreme Court justice's order to do so. That matter still is pending.

Rice's review followed a federal appeals court decision in 2010 that denied Friedman's bid to have his conviction overturned but was critical of the handling of his case, saying evidence suggested a likelihood he was wrongfully convicted.

Before his 2001 release, Friedman spent 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing more than a dozen boys who took computer classes at his family's home. His father, Arnold Friedman, killed himself in prison after also pleading guilty to sex-abuse counts.

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