BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A St. Francis College professor is hoping to clear the name of a convicted sex offender.
Jesse Friedman, convicted of hundreds of counts of child abuse, was the subject of a 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary "Capturing The Friedmans."
The film followed the lives of Arthur Friedman and his son Jesse, then 18, both of whom were convicted of abusing children in their Great Neck, N.Y. home in the 1980s while they held afterschool computer classes there.
But after 10 years of research, Emily Horowitz, associate professor at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, is convinced of the young Friedman's innocence.
"Jesse is truly an innocent victim in all of this," she said. "Since the trial, new evidence has emerged that makes me sure he was wrongfully convicted."
Arthur Friedman was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in 1988 and committed suicide in prison in 1995. Jesse Friedman was sentenced to six to 18 years and was released in 2001. He now lives with his wife in Connecticut and is fighting to clear his name and be removed from the sex offender registry.
Horowitz, director of the Institute for Peace and Justice, was captivated by the Friedman's case from the onset. She recently published a paper lending academic support to her claim that Friedman was a victim of wrongful conviction.
"This case took place during a time when suggestive recovery procedures were routinely used with children who were pressured to say the right thing," she said.
"This paper provides new evidence and insight from extensive interviews with people police alleged were molested — and who now as adults confirm they were coerced into making false accusations."
Further, Horowitz said the case lacked any physical or medical evidence.
And, in 2010, a federal appeals court stated there was a “reasonable likelihood he was wrongfully convicted.”
The filmmakers behind "Capturing the Friedmans" are also fighting to prove Friedman's innocence with an online petition and new video evidence.
Most recently, alleged sexual abuse victim Michael Epstein revealed that he lied during police questioning.
"Eventually I just consciously decided to lie and say that I had been abused, and repeat these crazy things I had heard from other kids or in the therapy or from the police," he said in an interview published in Horowitz's paper. "Because that was the only way to make it stop."
Horowitz said she believes that the other children experienced similar confusion and coercion.
Friedman, his lawyer Ron Kuby and Horowitz will present their evidence and answer questions at an event at St. Francis College on April 9.
“We hope that the attention from these stories will help get Jesse cleared once and for all,” Horowitz said.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, whose office is investigating Friedman's assertions, did not immediately return calls for comment.
Horowitz's full report is available for download here.