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Nassau DA files appeal in Friedman case-file decision

Jesse Friedman at a news conference at Supreme

Jesse Friedman at a news conference at Supreme Court in Mineola. (June 24, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau County judge mistakenly treated a civil lawsuit as if it were a criminal matter when he ordered prosecutors to turn over virtually their entire case files to Jesse Friedman, who is seeking to withdraw his 1988 guilty plea to molesting children, the Nassau County district attorney's office says in an appeal of the judge's order.

The legal brief filed with the Appellate Division in Brooklyn late Thursday said the disclosure order issued by Justice F. Dana Winslow of State Supreme Court in Mineola in August should be reversed and the lawsuit by Friedman dismissed.

Winslow granted Friedman's request for the records under the Freedom of Information Law, saying from the bench that the public needed to have confidence in how prosecutors and other public officials carried out their duties.

Winslow "failed to appreciate the crucial difference between a defendant facing trial and a member of the public filing a FOIL request," the appeal said. "Indeed it [the lower court] made clear that it viewed the civil . . . proceeding before it as an extension of petitioner's [Friedman's] long-completed criminal case. It was not."

"The breadth of the Supreme Court's order let alone its rationale is evidence that the court did not reasonably consider or address the issues before it," the appeal said. "The court ordered the release of the entirety of the District Attorney's file, without redaction of even the most sensitive material or identifying information."

Friedman's current attorney, Ron Kuby, said in a statement that the appeal was "a tired rehash of arguments previously and correctly rejected by the lower court."

Friedman and his father, Arnold, pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing more than a dozen young boys who took computer classes in their Great Neck home. Jesse Friedman served 13 years in prison and was paroled in 2001. His father committed suicide in prison in 1995.

The prosecutors' brief said Jesse Friedman "admitted that he sexually abused multiple children and he pled guilty to multiple sex offenses. He now denies any misconduct and effectively seeks the trial he did not want -- complete with discovery."

The case returned to the news in 2003 with the release of a documentary, "Capturing the Friedmans," by filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling. The film, which was nominated for an Academy Award, raised questions about tactics used by investigators to interview children and suggested his plea may have been coerced.

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