The state’s top court will consider whether a convicted sex offender should have access to his entire case file as he tries to prove his innocence decades after pleading guilty in a Great Neck child sex abuse case.
The Court of Appeals in Albany on Tuesday granted Jesse Friedman’s motion to once again let him argue for access to documents from a 1980s prosecution file that includes grand jury minutes.
Friedman, 46, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wants to use the materials at an upcoming hearing in Mineola to determine if he is innocent.
He spent 13 years in prison after pleading guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing boys who took computer classes at his family’s home. His father also pleaded guilty in the case and later committed suicide in prison.
However, Friedman has claimed he pleaded guilty to avoid life behind bars if convicted at a trial, that police manipulated children into false statements, and says five children recanted claims against him.
His attorney, Ronald Kuby, said in a statement Tuesday that the Albany court’s decision to hear Friedman’s appeal was “a major step in the direction of transparency and open government.”
The Manhattan lawyer added that the Nassau district attorney’s office, which has fought the documents’ release, has “long resisted the winds of change, preferring stuffy rooms to fresh air, secrecy to openness.”
Friedman said through a spokesman that he expected the documents “will reveal further evidence of my innocence.”
The Nassau district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Prosecutors previously have argued that releasing the records would invade victims’ privacy and that Friedman isn’t entitled to documents now that he would have been if his case had gone to trial.
A 2003 Academy Award-nominated documentary, “Capturing the Friedmans,” boosted Friedman’s innocence claim by raising questions about techniques detectives used to question child witnesses.
Tuesday’s decision follows a Brooklyn appellate court’s December ruling that prosecutors didn’t have to turn over “every piece of paper” from Friedman’s file except victims’ names — reversing an earlier state Supreme Court decision.
The Court of Appeals will review the Brooklyn court’s decision and likely hear oral arguments in the case in early 2017, court spokesman Gary Spencer said Tuesday.
In August 2013, state Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow had first made a decision in the case. He granted Friedman’s records request under the Freedom of Information Law, citing the public’s need for confidence in how prosecutors do their jobs.
Kuby has argued that Winslow — who has seen documents Friedman hasn’t — found substantial differences in subsequent statements that police took from witnesses as their probe developed.
In June 2013, a district attorney’s office review of Friedman’s case had found his conviction was justified.
Madeline Singas, now Nassau’s district attorney, had served as chief prosecutor on the conviction review panel that was convened after a federal court said evidence suggested a likelihood of a wrongful conviction.
In 2014, a Nassau County judge rejected Friedman’s bid to overturn his conviction, but granted him the innocence hearing — a proceeding that’s expected begin after a judge decides motions in the case.
Prosecutors have said they’re confident Friedman’s claim of innocence would be denied. That case’s next court date is May 10.