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Jesse Friedman challenges dismissal of defamation suit against Nassau DA

Jesse Friedman and his wife, Elisabeth Walsh, arriving

Jesse Friedman and his wife, Elisabeth Walsh, arriving for court on Feb. 10, 2015 in Manhattan. Credit: AP

A Connecticut man who pleaded guilty to child sex abuse charges years ago and now claims he's innocent is challenging a judge's decision to dismiss his defamation lawsuit against the Nassau district attorney's office.

In February, state Supreme Court Justice Karen Murphy ruled former District Attorney Kathleen Rice and two employees were shielded by immunity from civil damages while preparing a report based on a review of Jesse Friedman's conviction.

Friedman, 45, contends police manipulated children into making false claims against him and that he pleaded guilty in 1988 to avoid spending life in prison.

In an April 1 court filing, Friedman's lawyers said his upcoming appeal to a Brooklyn appellate court will raise issues that include whether the defendants were immune from the suit and whether their statements were defamatory or "fair and true reports."

In a statement Friday, Friedman attorney Bruce Rosen called Murphy's analysis of the immunity issue "flawed" and said the judge appeared to make factual determinations, "which is not appropriate in a motion to dismiss."

Friedman's 2014 civil claim alleged Rice defamed him in a 2013 report based on her office's review that found his conviction justified. He said the review relied on false information, including a psychiatric report calling him a "psychopath."

Nassau acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement reacting to the notice of appeal that Murphy's decision recognized the conviction-review process as a critical function of a prosecutor's office.

Singas reiterated that her office stands behind its review of Friedman's guilty plea. A spokesman for Rice, since elected to Congress, declined to comment.

Separately, a Nassau judge has granted Friedman a hearing on his claim of innocence. In addition, the appellate court is deciding whether to uphold a different Nassau judge's ruling that prosecutors should give Friedman virtually every scrap of paper in his criminal file.

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