Friedman seeks to clear name of sex abuse

Jesse Friedman sits in his lawyer's office in

Jesse Friedman sits in his lawyer's office in New York, where he was helping to prepare a motion to overturn his 1988 conviction on child sex abuse charges. (Jan. 7, 2004) (Credit: AP )

A man who served 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a number of children at his father's Great Neck computer school says he will open a hotline seeking new information in the case in an effort to clear his name.

Jesse Friedman, who was paroled in 2001, said in a statement that he seeks new information that will help to exonerate him as the Nassau district attorney's office reinvestigates his 25-year-old case.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice agreed to take a second look at the case in August 2010 after the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that denied Friedman's bid to withdraw his guilty plea, but criticized the handling of the case, citing "overzealousness" by law enforcement officials swept up in the "hysteria" over child molestation in the 1980s. The decision said Friedman was probably wrongly convicted and was pressured into pleading guilty to a crime he may not have committed.

"After 25 years, I want nothing more than to have my wrongful conviction vacated so my wife Elisabeth and I can begin to have a family and try to live a normal life," Jesse Friedman said in the statement.

Friedman, now 42, and his father, Arnold, admitted in 1988 to sexually abusing more than a dozen young boys in the basement of their Great Neck home. Arnold Friedman killed himself in prison in 1995.

Despite his guilty plea, the younger Friedman has maintained his innocence, including in the 2003 Academy Award-nominated documentary, "Capturing the Friedmans."

Rice appointed an independent panel to oversee her office's work on Friedman's case. The panel includes Barry Scheck, founder of the Manhattan-based Innocence Project, and three other legal and social science experts.

Lonnie Soury, a spokesman for Friedman, said he is disappointed by the lack of news from the investigation, which has been under way for 18 months.

John Byrne, a spokesman for Rice, would not comment on the status of the investigation.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the hotline at 516-660-4385.

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