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Jesse Friedman granted request for hearing on innocence claim in child sex abuse case

Jesse Friedman, with his wife Lisabeth, shown in

Jesse Friedman, with his wife Lisabeth, shown in a June 24, 2014 file photo. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A judge has granted a sex offender's request for a hearing on his innocence claim in connection with a Great Neck child sex-abuse case in which he pleaded guilty more than two decades ago.

In a decision Tuesday, acting state Supreme Court Justice Teresa Corrigan granted Jesse Friedman a hearing to determine whether he is actually innocent, saying the proceeding could be scheduled for early 2015. She also rejected Friedman's bid to overturn his conviction based on other arguments.

Friedman, 45, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing boys who took computer classes at his family's home. He was released from prison in 2001. He claims he pleaded guilty to avoid life behind bars if convicted at trial and that police manipulated children into false claims. The 2003 documentary "Capturing the Friedmans" raised questions about Friedman's prosecution and evidence behind the accusations.

Tuesday's ruling follows a September decision by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office not to oppose Friedman's bid for a hearing. But prosecutors also said then Friedman had made "misrepresentations concerning the evidence of his actual innocence" and there were statements from victims who maintain they were abused.

Prosecutors had opposed the June motion from Friedman that sought to have his conviction vacated. Friedman said then he "never committed a crime against any child."

"We're confident that after this hearing, the defendant's claim of actual innocence will be denied," Rice spokesman Paul Leonard said in a statement that also referenced the judge's rejection of some of Friedman's arguments.

Friedman's attorney, Ronald Kuby of Manhattan, criticized Corrigan's ruling, saying: "The decision tracks the prosecution's arguments and ignores contrary evidence."

He added: "We expected Judge Corrigan to do what the prosecutor wanted her to do, and she didn't disappoint and we have little doubt that this will be a hearing in name only."

While granting a hearing, the judge also rejected some arguments Friedman used to appeal for the overturning of his conviction and said they can't be used at the hearing.

Corrigan said the defense failed to meet its burden to show the prosecution knew, should have known or later learned false testimony was used in the grand jury. She also rejected Friedman's claim that his plea was coerced by a judge who has since died, saying the issue should have been raised when the judge was alive.

Corrigan's ruling follows her October decision denying Friedman's request that she recuse herself, claiming she has ties to Rice, her former boss.

A 2013 review by Rice's office found Friedman's conviction justified after a 2010 federal court decision said evidence suggested a likelihood of a wrongful conviction.

Friedman also has a defamation suit pending against Rice and two aides. Separately, prosecutors have appealed a judge's order to turn over Friedman's criminal case file to him.

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