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"There is no statement that Jesse makes today that can be trusted.”
June 26, 2013 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Jesse Friedman, one of the subjects of the documentary "Capturing the Friedmans", is in fact a "psychopathic deviant" who molested 17 children in his parents' Long Island home. This, according to a the three-year review that "has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender," Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in her 168-page report. The exhaustive report also took aim at the makers of "Capturing the Friedmans," director Andrew Jarecki and producer Marc Smerling. It accused them of using misleading, out-of-context snippets of interviews to further their campaign to exonerate Friedman, 44. Of course, Friedman, his wife, and Jarecki all maintain that Friedman is in fact innocent. [pdf] Previously.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (114 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think I speak for everyone when I say spoiler alert! But seriously this is terrible.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:22 PM on June 26, 2013


Boy oh boy do I need Janet Malcolm to write a book about this.
posted by escabeche at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


The fact that the documentary aimed at proving his innocence actually aided to proving him guilty is such wonderfully ironic comeuppance that I want to whip up a 'shop of Alanis and Nelson Muntz doing a "HA ha!" in tandem.

Unfortunately, I have to go help my dad move a couch, so instead I'll say "Good, fuck this creep."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


The report itself
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


This documentary was fascinating in the respect that it began as a day-in-the-life piece on David Friedman's party clown business and ditched that premise once the family's story was learned. It made absolutely zero sense that David, who ran a successful kid-centric business, would even bring this up to a documentarian. The "p-word" alone is toxic to a business like that.
posted by dr_dank at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's been a while since I've seen the movie, and while it started out seeming a lot like "Witch Hunt" and other films which sought to exhonorate people whose lives had been ruined by ridiculous accusations, by the time it was over, "innocent" was definitely not my overwhelming impression of Jesse.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:46 PM on June 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think I speak for everyone when I say spoiler alert!

Except that this isn't the finding of the film. Fuck it - watch it for yourself and make up your own minds.
posted by item at 3:47 PM on June 26, 2013


i own the documentary - got it when all those dvd resell companies were getting rid of bins of movies for $1 or $2. i was never able to finish it. i'd get half way through and just have to stop. it was super compelling but i always got the sense that it had a bias towards the accused. i guess that's an understatement.
posted by nadawi at 3:47 PM on June 26, 2013


No no no no no!

Before everyone throws up their hands and says "Oh well, guess he was guilty after all" I urge you to read the "key findings" of the report. This is nothing but a biased confirmation of the original highly problematic witness accounts. The majority of the issues raised by the documentary still stands.
posted by smithsmith at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


item: “Except that this isn't the finding of the film. Fuck it - watch it for yourself and make up your own minds.”

I have not seen this yet – I am hoping to check it out tonight, honestly. But it should be noted that this isn't about the film's finding. From all accounts, and from the report itself, the film didn't fail by drawing the wrong conclusion; the report claims that the film left a whole bunch of important stuff out and neglected to mention them at all.

So, uh – it seems like "watching it for ourselves and making up our own minds" would be a mistake. Documentaries rarely show the whole truth. This one seems to follow that rule. I'm going to watch the documentary myself and check it out, but I'm also going to read the report.
posted by koeselitz at 3:54 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]




I'm as Long Island as thet come - my mom's family predates the war, both of my grandfathers were grumman employees, including my maternal grandfather from the day he was 18 until he was 58. I'll defend it to the end.

The Nassau County DA and Police Department have been two of the most wretched piles of shit imaginable going back 40 years.

I mean I'll just point you to two little bits of insanity from this year:
Drunk Driving Off-Duty Cop Shoots Cab Driver 2x Over Argument, Cab Driver Arrested for Resisting Arrest. Covered Up by Suffolk and Nassau PD. Turns out Cops Story is total Fabrication. Cops Keep their job, most avoid any sanction.

and
Unarmed College Student Shot in Her Own Apartment by Police Responding to Home Invasion Alarm. Union Defends Officer

So yeah - they could say water is wet when it comes to investigating their own actions and I still want to see for myself.
posted by JPD at 4:02 PM on June 26, 2013 [17 favorites]


I certainly got the impression from the documentary that the whole family was being railroaded with obviously outrageous allegations. Accusations that they had molested 80+ children.

It seemed in the documentary that it was simply a witch hunt and they would have been exonerated except for the fact that the father had written some letters confessing he was attracted to children.

The allegations outlined in the documentary were so crazy that it was not hard to image that it was part of the more widespread panic the country was going through.

It didn't seem like the documentians made any special effort to prove the family innocent. I don't remember them doing kind of investigations like in those memphis 3 documentaries. they just kinda filmed them talking right?
posted by Ad hominem at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the time the movie came out the Jesse/Friedman camp were basically accusing Jarecki of selling them out - that he assured them during filming that he was making the film to extoll their innocence, but gave it a more ambiguous slant in editing and marketing because it played better with test audiences.

This is really just a few more plops into some already exceedingly muddy water here, people shouldn't take the "oh turns out he's guilty" line at face value any more than the film.
posted by anazgnos at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. The last three paragraphs of the Advisory Panel Statement are pretty strongly worded:
One final aspect of this case deserves special comment. The Second Circuit called for a reinvestigation of this case based, in large part, on information revealed in the movie Capturing the Friedmans. Capturing the Friedmans was a provocative and entertaining movie, but it was not an exhaustive account of the entire case against Jesse Friedman. The Review Team had to go behind the excerpts and sound bites that the producers used in the film and other “reels” and exhibits the producers have produced over the course of this re-investigation. After several failed attempts to get relevant information from the producers, the Review Team, with the support of the Advisory Panel, entered into an agreement with them regarding disclosure in an effort to get as much evidence as possible, and prevent premature public release of sensitive information about the witnesses and their families.

It is simply a fact, however, that before the re-investigation was complete a public relations campaign was launched attacking the original prosecution. In the context of this campaign the producers approached victims and witnesses to iv encourage them to take back their incriminating testimony. These actions presented difficulties for the Review Team when assessing the credibility of witnesses, and in some cases, being able to speak with witnesses at all. Similarly, the protracted discussions and negotiations with the film producers about sharing evidence also delayed the re-investigation.

Of course, it is appropriate that Jesse Friedman’s supporters, including the film’s producers, gather facts, advocate on Jesse’s behalf, and provoke public discussion and debate about the case. But artists and advocates use different methods, make different judgments, and apply different standards than those that public prosecutors must employ. It was the role of the District Attorney and her team to follow the facts, without fear or favor, and to make the best judgment they could under the circumstances presented to them, consistent with the law and the evidence. We believe that is what they did in this case.
If this is true, it's unfortunate and doesn't bode well for Friedman's supporters. Why would they be trying to prevent people from testifying or telling their side?
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the Statement of the Friedman Advisory Panel is pretty illustrative. If there was a miscarriage of justice, it's possible that simply too much time has passed to show it. The advisory panel is made up of supposedly impartial "nationally-recognized criminal justice experts," although I'm certainly not qualified to judge their reputation.
posted by muddgirl at 4:11 PM on June 26, 2013


Why would they be trying to prevent people from testifying or telling their side?

From what I gather, Friedman and his lawyer would very much like all involved to tell their story -- they simply want them to tell it in court as part of an exoneration process, and not as part of an investigation directed by the DA.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:14 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


smithsmith, I'm reading the report (bottom of ix). Especially the part that says:

"Further, three of Jesse’s thirteen victims publicly reaffirmed their testimony in
anonymous letters. In 2004, two victims wrote a letter to the Motion Picture Academy
upon learning that Capturing the Friedmans was nominated for an Academy Award:

We were abused, tortured and humiliated by Arnold and
Jesse Friedman in computer classes in Arnold’s basement.
Many of us have physical scars from what was done to us:
all of us have psychological scars.

During this time, another victim, a law student, wrote the following to Judge Boklan:

It was under the guise of an educator, that Arnold and
Jessie Friedman used computer technology to show young
children pornography, to take photographs of young
children reacting to that pornography, and to take
photographs of sexual acts being performed by young
children. I was seven years old when I was in the custody of
Arnold and Jessie Friedman. At that time I did not
understand the dynamics of human sexuality. I only
understood fear. I became afraid of everything beyond my
control. My childhood curiosity was replaced with an
inherent distrust for adults, authority figures, and every
unknown."

I don't find that a biased confirmation, but I'll admit my own bias: my wife is a DA who prosecutes SVU cases.
posted by grimjeer at 4:21 PM on June 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


So, the DA has issued a report saying "We got it right!" and that's case closed? Like hell. The charges were always ridiculous (one molestation, sure. Two, sure. Five, sure. Eighty? With Arnold Friedman allegedly walking through the classroom waving his wang? Bullshit), and the fact that the Nassau DA, a notoriously prosecution-friendly office, has released their own report just makes me more suspicious.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:26 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


People blowing this off (like the last comment) should read the report or at least the executive summary - it is devastating. And I say that as someone who was really impressed by the movie back when it was released.
posted by Mid at 4:32 PM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Key findings:

Three victims affirmed their prior accounts to the Review Team, and at least three others maintained their accusations at various points within the last decade.

Wow, really? This apparently comprehensive review could only confirm the testimony of three out of the original thirteen alleged victims?

None of the five individuals who Friedman advocates suggest “recanted” have, in fact, recanted to any degree of legal certainty. Three have not recanted at all.

What's more disturbing is the fact that even one, let alone two, victim/s has recanted. That suggest that police elicited false testimony.

Reviews of transcripts concerning these individuals reveal that abuse occurred. Another who spoke to the Review Team stood by his account, in contrast to the statement he gave to filmmakers. The subject of the most recent purported recantation has refused to speak to the Review Team or even confirm he wrote the letter outlining the claim, which was provided to the Review Team by Jesse Friedman’s lawyer.

There's a reason witnesses are reluctant to recant testimony, especially to a DA-led review panel. It's called perjury.

Thirteen children accused Jesse Friedman of criminal misconduct within the first five weeks of the investigation.

So? There is no disputing that allegations were made and the film doesn't do this. The problem is how the allegations were solicited by the police.

The investigation also revealed additional statements alleging abuse by Jesse Friedman, obtained during the original investigation from three children who did not testify against Jesse Friedman in any grand jury and were therefore not known to anyone outside law enforcement until this Review.

So the police withheld evidence. Why? Was it because their statements were inconsistent or unbelievable?

One additional student originally disclosed abuse against Arnold Friedman only, but has since told the Review Team that he was also abused by Jesse Friedman.

This only displays a disturbing malleability to the witness testimony.

Incomplete and insufficient police paperwork at times hampered the Review Team’s ability to reconstruct portions of the police department investigation and decision-making process.

Another big surprise. Incompetent and unprofessional policing is central to the accusations made by the documentary.

Friedman codefendant Ross Goldstein privately confessed to a childhood friend in 1989.

Who's ever heard of a false confession?

Unedited film transcripts of Judge Abbey Boklan and Detective Anthony Squeglia show that each was the subject of selectively edited and misleading film portrayals in Capturing the Friedmans.

Another astonishingly subjective finding by the OFFICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PROSECUTION OF THE CASE.

The “Meyers Tape” – one of only two pieces of direct evidence of heavy-handed police interviewing techniques cited by Friedman, his advocates and the Court – is, in fact, no tape at all. All that remains of a tape that hasn’t existed for more than two decades are notes taken during its screening by a Jesse Friedman attorney. Those notes, presumably limited to information the attorney found helpful to his client’s case, were then reduced and curated by filmmakers, and read dramatically by Friedman’s attorney in Capturing the Friedmans.

Again, what does that prove other than atrocious police procedure and records?

A sworn affidavit from the therapist who treated former student “Computer Student One,” stated that she never performed hypnosis on the child. A portion of an unedited transcript of the film’s interview with “Computer Student One” contradicted his claim of pre-outcry hypnosis and had been edited out. “Computer Student One” claimed in a 2004 media report that Capturing the Friedmans “twisted” his account. The filmed allegations of “Computer Student One” remain the only direct evidence offered by Friedman or his advocates suggesting that hypnosis was used to induce victims to make accusations in this case.

I'm more concerned about coercive police questioning of young and impressionable witnesses than I am about hypnosis.

An analysis of unrelated wrongful child abuse accusations across the country during the time period in question identified several material distinctions with the Friedman case, including: the comparatively older ages of the complainants, the plausibility of the allegations, and the criminal backgrounds of those involved (namely, Arnold Friedman’s inarguable and admitted pedophilia).

Again, who cares what happened in other cases? The law is not an experiment undertaken in controlled conditions. Arnold Friedman's pedophilia was never in question.

While maintaining his innocence prior to his eventual guilty plea, Friedman commissioned and failed at least two lie-detector tests.

I can find the research if people are interested but polygraphs tests are incredibly unreliable and are basically only used in the United States during criminal proceedings.

Notes from Friedman’s attorney reveal that a psychiatrist hired by Friedman prior to his guilty plea, found Friedman to be a “narcissist” and “psychopath” who was capable of committing the crimes with which he was charged. The notes also reveal the existence of a second Friedman-hired doctor. Friedman’s lawyer eventually instructed both doctors not to issue formal reports “due to the extreme negative result”. Prison disciplinary records show that Friedman was caught possessing a magazine photograph depicting two nude children, and was punished for writing allegedly fictional accounts of bestiality, incest and child rape.

I have no doubt that Jesse Friedman is a psychologically damaged individual. He was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of his father.

Howard Friedman, brother of Arnold and uncle of Jesse, admitted to the Review Team that Arnold had privately confessed to him shortly after his arrest, and that Arnold admitted to him that Jesse was also involved in the abuse that occurred in the Friedman house, and that Arnold admitted molesting Jesse.

Jesse has already admitted that his father molested him so this is not a new development. What is key is Jesse's participation in the abuse. Howard Friedman's second hand account of what a dead man told him should be tested under oath in court. Note: the documentary also makes it clear that Arnold Friedman abused Howard Friedman.

In a post-conviction interview by law-enforcement personnel, Arnold Friedman admitted to abusing 41 children and denied abusing 12 others.

Who disputed Arnold Friedman's pedophilia? The documentary certainly made it clear that he had those tendencies and acted upon them.

Prior to his guilty plea, Friedman went to visit his father in an out-of-state prison in an effort to locate photographs of the abuse that Friedman once agreed may exist. Case files also reference a hidden closet near the computer room that was not searched by federal agents during the surprise search warrant and was later discovered empty during the execution of a state search warrant in the weeks following the Friedmans’ arrests.

So apparently even lack of evidence of guilt is evidence of guilt according to this unbiased report.

Jesse Friedman’s willingness to tell the truth has been inconsistent, especially as it pertained to his many descriptions of his father’s guilt, his own possible victimhood, and his prior relationship with his former friend and codefendant, Ross Goldstein.

Yeah, why would an abuse victim seek to obfuscate his abuse. It's not like that ever happens. It's not like people go decades hiding the truth of their victimhood before finding the courage to come forward. And why wouldn't you admit it to people who are also simultaneously accusing you of being an abuser. Baffling.
posted by smithsmith at 4:44 PM on June 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


although I'm certainly not qualified to judge their reputation.

Mark F. Pomerantz, formerly a US Attorney in the Southern District of New York nominated by Obama, is an attorney ranked among the region's best; New York magazine, in 2005, labeled him a pick for "bet-the-company litigation", "corporate governance and compliance law" and "white collar criminal defense" (for the latter, one of four listed, although each of these is an exclusive category).

Patrick J. Harnett, formerly the Police Chief of Hartford, CT and chief of the NYPD Transportation Department is a homeland security academic at Long Island University, among other groups. He has written for the conservative policy magazine City Journal.

Susan N. Herman is the President of the American Civil Liberties Union and a legal academic at Brooklyn Law.

Barry Scheck, of course, is the co-director and co-founder of the Innocence Project., and is a distinguished defense attorney. He obtained a national profile following the O.J. Simpson trial in which he legendarily cross-examined prosecution DNA expert Dennis Fung.
posted by dhartung at 4:45 PM on June 26, 2013 [17 favorites]


grimjeer: What I can't quite square is the testimony of children like those you've quoted above who claim broad and extreme sexual acts on groups of children with two things: 1) a lack of any type of photographic evidence (did the Friedmans have a dark room and develop their own photographs?) and 2) the testimony of other children in the same classroom who said that they witnessed no abuse whatsoever. If the claims were less . . . spectacular, I don't think I'd find myself reacting to them with such suspicion. Especially since those claims (pedophiles having group sex with captive children) seem like such a relic of the Satanic ritual and sex abuse panic of the 1980s.

Someone earlier made a comparison to the WM3 case. I think there are some interesting parallels, but I also think there are also some really interesting points where the films and relevant advocacy diverge. In WM3, the advocacy was clear, and follow up films charted the progress of the case. Celebrities were involved. The local judges and DAs were given no benefit of the doubt at any point in the process by those convinced of the innocence of the WM3. Here, the advocacy present in the original film was weak if not entirely absent; Jarecki's stated belief in the innocence of Friedman has come after the film's release. Largely, the defense of Friedman has been mounted by him alone, and his family. Would a stronger push by Jarecki, or a follow-up film with a more pronounced point of view help Friedman? Is it too late?

Personally I don't know either way and I'm not confident enough in the legitimacy of Jarecki or the DA to grant either of them my trust; all I am certain of is that the entire affair is a mystery I'm incredibly intrigued by, and it would be fantastic if a third party came in and sorted things out. I learned of this latest development from David Grann's twitter feed -- he seems interested in the case, perhaps he'll take it on as his next story. That would be awesome.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:49 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: Jesse Friedman isn't in prison or on death row so I think that substantially changes the nature of the advocacy.
posted by smithsmith at 4:52 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


There were many things that affected the nature of the advocacy, or lack thereof, in both films, and sure, that was definitely a big one. I'm sorry -- did it seem like I was equating the two cases, the charges against the defendants, and the outcomes? If so, was not my intent.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:55 PM on June 26, 2013


Barry Scheck

Maybe I'm biased here but if lawyers have fans, then I'm a fan of Barry Scheck. I was glued to the TV during the OJ trial and the British Au Pair trial.

This guy has been working for 20 years to get the wrongfully convicted exhonerated. I believe what he says.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:06 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


did the Friedmans have a dark room and develop their own photographs?

Evidence recovered included a Polaroid camera and a movie camera (presumably a camcorder). Even so, it is not especially difficult to develop your own negatives and it was a common enough hobby.

I have to concur with Ad hominem here. I have good reason to respect three of the four members of the advisory panel, and all four have national reputations. I have to conclude that this report is devastating to the Friedman supporters.

The report specifically addresses questions such as the credibility of witnesses, the contradictory accounts, the use of hypnosis (none prior to the indictment), and the similarity to other cases which have been subsequently labeled moral panics. One of the key points they made was the age of the victims, who were mostly grammar-school aged, not kindergartners or toddlers as in e.g. the McMartin case.

The review team did find that practices followed then by the police and prosecution were poor in documentation, compared to what is considered best practices today. That was the times, though. Cases like this taught law enforcement to take greater deliberate care.
posted by dhartung at 5:24 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find strong arguments in either direction unconvincing and suspicious.

The father was a pedophile who incested Jesse. He ran a class for young children. It's entirely possible that the father abused the children and enlisted Jesse in this. It's the kind of thing pedophiles do. But, also, the whole thing is very much part of the day-care sexual abuse moral panic of the eighties, which was bogus. And child testimony at that time was notoriously unreliable until LE learned better interview technique. And witness testimony in general is unreliable, especially by adults of their childhood memories many years later, and especially with regard to stories they've told and retold their entire lives. Of course Jesse himself is messed-up. And prosecutors in general, and specifically of the jurisdiction in question, are basically the least credible sources about a convicted felon's possible innocence.

The uncle's claim carries some weight with me. The Advisory Panel's vote of confidence in the DA's review carries some weight with me.

Could go either way. Unambiguous in either direction, this most certainly is not.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:27 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a little surprised at how people seem so polarized into "all the charges were true" or "none of the charges were true". From what I've seen here (not having seen the film), it seems most likely that multiple children were abused, and that the prosecutors and police artificially inflated the figures.
posted by Bugbread at 5:36 PM on June 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


The claim of partisan advocacy is, to be fair, a relatively new charge against Jarecki. In fact, after the film was released, he was criticized in some quarters for being too impartial:

I don't have any personal knowledge of Capturing the Friedmans, but I have met Richard Ofshe, the expert on false confessions who was featured at the trial of Jesse Misskelley in the documentary film, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills. Ofshe told me that he thought the filmmakers didn't adequately highlight evidence that would have exonerated the West Memphis 3, characterizing the film as the work of some indie documentarians trying to make a name for themselves with a film about poor Southern white trash. Ofshe was so critical of it that I was actually very surprised that he appeared in the second part of the documentary trilogy made about the West Memphis 3.

In retrospect, the bulk of the evidence points to the West Memphis Three's innocence, but that didn't stop them from rotting in jail for 18 years. On the other hand, I've heard Berlinger and Sinofsky, the makers of Paradise Lost, say that their first film was more effective, because they left it for the viewer to decide whether the West Memphis 3 was innocent or not.
posted by jonp72 at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


"From what I've seen here (not having seen the film), it seems most likely that multiple children were abused, and that the prosecutors and police artificially inflated the figures."

I agree that seems quite plausible. What's much more likely than what the police and prosecutors claimed, is that one or two children were cultivated by the father and then abused privately, with Jesse participating and/or Jesse also cultivating one or two children and abusing them privately. That's much more how pedophiles operate.

The wholesale abuse in full view of the other kids is much more in the mold of the daycare moral panic. And that conception of pedophilic sexual violence is all about a particular set of cultural fears expressed in that cultural moment which really have very little to do with pedophilia.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:53 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


they just kinda filmed them talking right?

If I remember correctly, a majority of the film consisted simply of home movies shot by one of the sons, no? Which was then edited and added to by the filmmakers.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:22 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I remember correctly, a majority of the film consisted simply of home movies shot by one of the sons, no? Which was then edited and added to by the filmmakers.
posted


Ah ok yes. A lot the stuff where they just stand around in the kitchen and talk was filmed by one of the other sons.

I kinda want to re watch it to refresh my memory but I kinda don't.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:30 PM on June 26, 2013


If I remember correctly, a majority of the film consisted simply of home movies shot by one of the sons, no? Which was then edited and added to by the filmmakers.

Yeah, regardless of guilt or innocence, the documentary is remarkable in that the family continued to film themselves fall completely apart during the arrest and judicial process that ultimately sent Arthur and Jesse to prison.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Susan N. Herman is the President of the American Civil Liberties Union and a legal academic at Brooklyn Law.

So the President of the ACLU is a signatory on the report.

I see.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:47 PM on June 26, 2013


people shouldn't take the "oh turns out he's guilty" line at face value any more than the film.

Err...they just did a three year Warren Commission style investigation of the whole case and concluded that his conviction was practically ironclad in its certainty. Whether there were three, or five, or 17 or 41 victims is kinda beside the point, really.

This is as guilty as guilty gets, legally speaking.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:52 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reading the full report, it's interesting (but not surprising) that they use Goldstein's recantation as evidence of meddling on the part of the filmmakers instead of evidence of a false confession. Even though Goldstein clearly and directly tells the commission that he saw no sexual abuse and was coerced by prosecutors. But reading through that section of the report brings me back to the thing that I'm still the most hung up on -- the complete lack of photographs or film footage of any of these crimes. The victims claimed that their abuse was filmed and photographed extensively; this was also part of Goldstein and Jesse's confessions. But if I remember correctly, this all started when the police executed a surprise search warrant for child pornography, which they easily found. So, during the search, they recovered the magazines they were looking for, but found no photographs of abuse? Do the prosecutors claim that such evidence was destroyed by the defendants and, if so, why would Arthur destroy the photographs and film footage but leave behind piles of child pornography? I'm not being rhetorical here -- I'm genuinely curious what the theory is, from both sides.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:00 PM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's some suggestion that the alleged photographs were destroyed or secreted at some point:
Prior to his guilty plea, Friedman went to visit his father in an out-of-state prison in an effort to locate photographs of the abuse that Friedman once agreed may exist. Case files also reference a hidden closet near the computer room that was not searched by federal agents during the surprise search warrant and was later discovered empty during the execution of a state search warrant in the weeks following the Friedmans’ arrests.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:05 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, why would an abuse victim seek to obfuscate his abuse. It's not like that ever happens. It's not like people go decades hiding the truth of their victimhood before finding the courage to come forward. And why wouldn't you admit it to people who are also simultaneously accusing you of being an abuser. Baffling.

How is this substantially different than some of the victims recanting their previous allegations?
posted by gentian at 7:12 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is nearly impossible to know the facts. To get the best idea, you would need to watch all of the footage and read all of the report.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:14 PM on June 26, 2013


Ha! "Secret closet that we didn't check" is so unbelievably convenient, for both sides. Either it was a godsend to the Friedmans that allowed them to dispose of evidence of guilt that surely kept Jesse from serving a much longer sentence, or a godsend to prosecutors that allowed them to explain the complete lack of physical evidence. What an endlessly fascinating story.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:15 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


why would Arthur destroy the photographs and film footage but leave behind piles of child pornography?

He was dead to rights on possession of child pornography, but evidence of himself being a molester would be far more devastating, necessitating greater security.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:16 PM on June 26, 2013


Yeah, he was dead to rights on possession of child pornography . . . after they found the child pornography that he was hiding behind the piano.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:18 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, it's kinda like hiding your weed in a wooden box in the top drawer of your dresser, vs. hiding a murder weapon. Possession of of the materials is bad, but not THAT bad, sentence-wise.
(but yeah, the secret compartment is awfully convenient for everyone)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:27 PM on June 26, 2013


Whether there were three, or five, or 17 or 41 victims is kinda beside the point, really.

For what it's worth, it doesn't seem beside the point to me.
posted by escabeche at 7:42 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's possible he might be guilty of some of the charges, but innocent of most of them. That said "80 kids" sounds absurd, but if you're talking about every single kid that he touched inappropriately even once it might not be impossible. It's not something that would leave any physical evidence.

There was also a lot of hysteria about this stuff in the 80s, I think and people were way less cautious about prosecuting it.


Interesting side note to that guy who had those women locked up in his basement, His wife, who he was seriously physically abusive too, ultimately divorced him and remarried. He apparently got one of his kids to claim that his ex's new husband sexually abused them (even though they were non-specific on the stand) and he ended up on the sex offender registry.
Mark F. Pomerantz, formerly a US Attorney in the Southern District of New York nominated by Obama, is an attorney ranked among the region's best; New York magazine, in 2005, labeled him a pick for "bet-the-company litigation", "corporate governance and compliance law" and "white collar criminal defense" (for the latter, one of four listed, although each of these is an exclusive category).

Patrick J. Harnett, formerly the Police Chief of Hartford, CT and chief of the NYPD Transportation Department is a homeland security academic at Long Island University, among other groups. He has written for the conservative policy magazine City Journal.
Prosecutors gain their reputations by getting convictions, regardless of whether or not the people are actually innocent. There was a recent documentary about the central park 5 - their convictions were overturned with DNA evidence, but the prosecutor still ended up a law professor at Columbia law, as well as one of those TV pundits, apparently.

That said some of the people on the committee seem to have a history as advocates for the wrongfully convicted.
Wow, really? This apparently comprehensive review could only confirm the testimony of three out of the original thirteen alleged victims?
None of the five individuals who Friedman advocates suggest “recanted” have, in fact, recanted to any degree of legal certainty. Three have not recanted at all.

What's more disturbing is the fact that even one, let alone two, victim/s has recanted. That suggest that police elicited false testimony.
One huge problem is that we now know people's memories aren't perfect records, what ends up happening is that you re-remember things and they basically get re-recorded. So if you 'remember' something false enough times the memory can actually change. This might be even more possible with small children.

In law we want to be able to say people are definitely 100% innocent or definitely 100% guilty when in reality the evidence can be ambiguous. Innocence and guilt may both be consistent with the evidence. And like I said, he could be innocent of some of the charges, and guilty of other ones. That would certainly explain why some people might have recanted and others didn't.
posted by delmoi at 7:43 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


"80 kids" sounds absurd

I don't know where 80 kids comes from. I know police and news reports at the time talk about how he was in contact with like 500 kids, but the report identifies that as sensationalism.
By the time the investigation concluded approximately one year after it began, police documented visits to 104 households, and identified sixty-nine children who attended the computer classes. At least twenty-five of those sixty-nine children reported criminal activity against one or both Friedmans. Fourteen students had testified against Jesse in the grand jury.
The criminal activity described in the report is everything from showing a child pornographic photos to (many fewer reports of) sexual contact. The report also notes that class sizes were around 9 students, and that Arnold Friedman decided which student was in which class. All 65 kids weren't in the same class or even attending in the same semester and year.
posted by muddgirl at 7:53 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, it doesn't seem beside the point to me.

For the victims' sake, sure, it's definitely not beside the point. But as far as Jesse's conviction & sentence, as well as questions of how the prosecution pursued the case (which was more or less the point of this review), the total number of victims seems less relevant.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:55 PM on June 26, 2013


I don't know where 80 kids comes from. I

First link

The hysteria was compounded by Arnold Friedman's admission as part of his plea deal that he'd molested all 81 kids who'd taken his class, while prosecutors didn't question "outlandish" tales of "sex games" in his classroom.

I remembered the number from the documentary as well as rather graphic details about the sex games. One involved leapfrog in a way that would have caused serious injuries.

Those were two of the reasons I always thought it just couldn't be true.

The truth seems to me much more mundane. Ritual abuse scare with a kernel of truth.

The whole thing is really terrible. Even if it really never happened there would still be people out there convinced they personally were abused.

What a world.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:16 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates

"grimjeer: What I can't quite square is the testimony of children like those you've quoted above who claim broad and extreme sexual acts on groups of children with two things: 1) a lack of any type of photographic evidence (did the Friedmans have a dark room and develop their own photographs?) and "

Are you suggesting that the Friedman's would have had to take pictures of all of these incidents? That they took any? I see a mention in the report of a kid going to the bathroom and questioning whether a bright flash was from a camera. Or are you talking about the general presence of pornography in the home? I presume the photographic evidence would have come from Arnold's collection of pornography, the basis for the original investigation of him. [ That is, why would they need to take photos in the first place, as he already had a stash? ] From the report:

Jesse Friedman’s conviction has its roots in a federal investigation of Jesse’s
father Arnold, a retired schoolteacher. That investigation began in 1984 when a United
States Postal Inspector discovered that Arnold had solicited and traded child pornography through the U.S. mail. The investigation ended three years later when agents arrested him on November 3, 1987, and executed a search warrant to recover child pornography from the Friedman home. In the course of that search, federal agents seized more than thirty items of child pornography from Arnold’s office, and also discovered a list of names of local children


2) the testimony of other children in the same classroom who said that they witnessed no abuse whatsoever. If the claims were less . . . spectacular, I don't think I'd find myself reacting to them with such suspicion. Especially since those claims (pedophiles having group sex with captive children) seem like such a relic of the Satanic ritual and sex abuse panic of the 1980s.



You seem to be assuming that all of these children were there all of the time and would have to have been present during the events. The report describes Arnold's grooming behavior: he would, for instance, let children play video games, distract them, and fondle them. Do you think all the children in the room would notice that? If we assume Jesse's very public confession that his father abused him, perhaps he learned his father's grooming method firsthand. Do you think they would notice if Jesse sat down in a chair and told a student, "Sit in my lap and I'll help you?" Especially if that seemed like a common approach to many of them? Would he have judged which children seemed receptive and pursued them? Groped them? Exposed himself to them?

Someone earlier made a comparison to the WM3 case. I think there are some interesting parallels, but I also think there are also some really interesting points where the films and relevant advocacy diverge. In WM3, the advocacy was clear, and follow up films charted the progress of the case. Celebrities were involved. The local judges and DAs were given no benefit of the doubt at any point in the process by those convinced of the innocence of the WM3. Here, the advocacy present in the original film was weak if not entirely absent; Jarecki's stated belief in the innocence of Friedman has come after the film's release. Largely, the defense of Friedman has been mounted by him alone, and his family. Would a stronger push by Jarecki, or a follow-up film with a more pronounced point of view help Friedman? Is it too late?

I know someone with personal knowledge of that case, too. I try to avoid commenting on it.

Personally I don't know either way and I'm not confident enough in the legitimacy of Jarecki or the DA to grant either of them my trust; all I am certain of is that the entire affair is a mystery I'm incredibly intrigued by, and it would be fantastic if a third party came in and sorted things out. I learned of this latest development from David Grann's twitter feed -- he seems interested in the case, perhaps he'll take it on as his next story. That would be awesome.

I am sure more people will make money off of this story. I don't see the findings being reversed. I don't see a new, definitive report being issued.
posted by grimjeer at 8:53 PM on June 26, 2013


From what I remember of the film, a case is built (by the filmmakers) that Arnold Friedman was a victim of group hysteria and unreliable witnesses. You're ready, by the end, to throw in with the Friedmans completely and *then* there's an actual twist--in a documentary!--that makes you question everything you just saw.

Maybe I'm being fatalistic when I say this is one of those things that is so complicated and convoluted and dependent upon testimony that we'll probably never know the truth as it really happened.
posted by zardoz at 9:05 PM on June 26, 2013


I don't know where 80 kids comes from. I

First link


I don't see a reference to 80 kids in the first link.
posted by yoink at 9:26 PM on June 26, 2013


Because it's 81, not 80:

The hysteria was compounded by Arnold Friedman's admission as part of his plea deal that he'd molested all 81 kids who'd taken his class, while prosecutors didn't question "outlandish" tales of "sex games" in his classroom.
posted by anazgnos at 9:33 PM on June 26, 2013


Just finished re-watching. Part of the difficulty is that, quite apart from "building a case," the film merely presents the events as they happened. It is not at all probative (if I have the right word.) There is no investigation, no outside experts (apart from one or two very general statements from a child psychologist) and no conclusions. We never hear from Arnold (he had committed suicide some years earlier) other than home movies, during which he scarcely bothers to say a word, never mind explain himself or protest his innocence.

Jesse is interviewed from prison and and focuses on how "ridiculous" the whole thing is. His only "real" moment is during his tearful guilty plea, which struck me as perhaps more revealing than what he might have intended.

David, the clown, is the onscreen victim (apart from the actual molestation victims) as we watch him lose his entire family in front of us.

Like Errol Morris, the filmmakers appeared to be more interested in the people than the story. Unlike Morris (see: The Thin Blue Line) they didn't have the luxury of a public trial to reconstruct/deconstruct, nor were they (apparently) persistent (or fortunate) enough to uncover a smoking gun at the end.

As others have said, it's a heartbreaking story for all involved. And as horrible as what Jesse did, I couldn't help but get a little choked up at the end, as if maybe it's OK for one or two of these pathetic (in multiple senses of the word) to finally have a little peace, if only to relieve myself of the burden of bearing their tragedy for 90 minutes.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:41 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm watching the film now, and Jesus Christ. I feel bad for the mother, and the older brother is such a fucking creepshow. Who does that? Who videotapes their family falling apart? Unless maybe in the back of his mind he thought it would turn into a story of triumph one day...

Can't help but read into things, now, of course. But it was striking to me...the farther, Arthur, doesn't smile and barely speaks in any of the trial era footage, until the stuff from the night before he went to jail. It's the first time he speaks in anything above a mutter....can't help but wonder if he felt it as a burden lifted. Of course, editing can do anything.

Jesse is interviewed from prison and and focuses on how "ridiculous" the whole thing is. His only "real" moment is during his tearful guilty plea, which struck me as perhaps more revealing than what he might have intended.

Well, that's the interesting bit, right? According to his 2003 self he was lying...he did nothing, and the whole story of him-as-victim of his father was made up to get him greater leniency. So according to his 2003 self those are crocodile tears, and the real part is the brash boy goofing off with his brothers and keeping up a brave front. Life's complicated. Maybe both were real. But to me his seemed sharpest and clearest when he was discussing odds, and deciding to take the plea because he didn't like them. In three years I'd win the case, but now...
posted by Diablevert at 10:17 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why not more attention is being brought to the now-adult victims. I think their words are pretty clear. It's one thing for a child to say something happened at the tender age of 8. It's another thing if they maintain that something happened 20 years later.

As for Jesse's innocence... there's just a lot stacked up against him: The uncle's confession, Jesse's lawyer Peter Panaro story about Jesse admitting it, the two children's testimonies, the teary-eyed confession in court, the Geraldo interview.

The fact is I'll probably never know if he is guilty or not, but I don't the think 'Capturing the Friedmans' can be compared to 'Paradise Lost' as a film about the wrongly-accused.
posted by staticscreen at 11:24 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really enjoyed that film when it came out. I thought it was such a powerful deconstruction of a family, really, and I recall - as someone from a larger family myself - marvelling at the way they kept up so many familiar family tics as their whol world was crashing down. And the compulsion to film and photograph was really extraordinary.

I think Jarecki could have gone either way - if you watch the extras some of the footage they didn't include, to me, seemed even more damning of the prosecutors. The full interview with the sketchiest victim is really something else; dude is all over the map, and struck me as being almost certainly high, or heavily medicated.

Not at all trivialising what may have happened, but for me, the film was really more of a meditation about family than a Morris-like forensic deconstruction about crime. I felt so, so bad for the wife, essentially locked out of her own family by the phalanx of men in a world she was not permitted access to.

At the centre remains Arnold, a complete cypher, and Seth of course, who we never see, who I think (rightly) didn't want any part of anything.
posted by smoke at 1:21 AM on June 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


grimjeer, I'd like to answer some of your questions, but I'm not sure I understand most of them. For instance, you say: Are you suggesting that the Friedman's would have had to take pictures of all of these incidents? That they took any?

But in the quote that you provided earlier in the thread, an adult victim claims:

It was under the guise of an educator, that Arnold and Jessie Friedman used computer technology to show young children pornography, to take photographs of young children reacting to that pornography, and to take photographs of sexual acts being performed by young children.

So, I don't know what to say other than yes, the claims of abuse have always centered around the fact that a large amount of media depicting the abuse was created by the Friedmans. Ross Goldstein testified that he filmed Jesse and Arthur performing sex acts on the children. (As mentioned earlier in the thread, he has recanted that testimony in recent years.)

Also, as to the West Memphis 3, I'm always interested in those who have more privileged information that is not available to viewers of the documentaries. Do you know something about the case that leads you to believe they are in fact guilty? If you care to share, I'd be grateful.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:57 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't the think 'Capturing the Friedmans' can be compared to 'Paradise Lost' as a film about the wrongly-accused.

Comparison as films about the wrongly-accused: did anyone do so? Where they overlap is that both are films in which the filmmaker(s) began with the intent of making very different films (in PL, they were there to make a film about the spread of Satanism, in CtF, the filmmaker was making a film about a birthday clown), then they became involved with the subjects to such a degree that the topics of the films changed and the filmmakers became advocates for the subjects of the films. People have different opinions, obviously, about the guilt/innocence of Friedman and the WM3, but the filmmakers themselves have no doubts. And, as grimjeer hints, there are still many out there who are not convinced of the innocence of the WM3, so even a discussion of the wrongly-accused should be "wrongly-accused." I'm less interested in the actual guilt or innocence of Jesse Friedman and more interested in how we ended up here. This report was commissioned because of questions raised by a documentary -- that's pretty powerful. There is a sliding scale of commitment at the intersection of filmmaking and advocacy, and Capturing the Friedmans is on the low end of that. At the other extreme, Errol Morris essentially re-tried Randall Adams in The Thin Blue Line; his film was basically what Adams' defense should have been.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:23 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Literally what has to happen for victims, especially child victims, to be believed? Confessions by the perpetrators, trials, a three year investigation into the conviction, and still it's 'well are you sure?' Reading the report it looks pretty fucking watertight to me. Btw there are lots of reasons why people recant their original statements, and not all of those are 'because I made it up.' Is there some reason I'm missing why some people can't bring themselves to admit that it actually happened? It was a good documenatry, but as a piece of art produced by fallible humans with their own agendas it's hardly the definitive version of the truth.
posted by billiebee at 4:28 AM on June 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


For those of you interested in such minutae, Seth Friedman is former Factsheet 5 editor R. Seth Friedman.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:17 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, I don't know what to say other than yes, the claims of abuse have always centered around the fact that a large amount of media depicting the abuse was created by the Friedmans. Ross Goldstein testified that he filmed Jesse and Arthur performing sex acts on the children. (As mentioned earlier in the thread, he has recanted that testimony in recent years.)

Well, like a lot of things in this story, there's a wide range of possible intepretations you could make of this. But I don't know that it's so implausible for photos to have been taken and not found.

The thing started with the Feds investigating Arnold for getting mags through the mail. The first search and first warrant were undertaken by the Feds to find evidence of that crime --- and they did, and plenty of it. It was only when reviewing that evidence that they discovered the class roster and alerted the state cops that there might be a case for them here with the local kids. Arnold was arrested as a result of the first search; Jesse wasn't. They seem to have searched the Great Neck house that first time-- the family had a summer home as well, no one says if they searched that. No mention of searching Jesse's dorm either.

Posit that, for whatever reason, the Feds didn't find everything in that first search. Maybe cause it was well hidden, or at a different location, or they weren't looking for it in the first place (I bet a lot of cops in 1987 had never conceived of such a thing as kiddie porn video games). If both Jesse and Arnold were involved in the abuse in the classes, taking photos and so forth, they both would have known about the stash, and it seems clear that Jesse would have had a free hand to destroy anything the Feds missed after that first pass.
posted by Diablevert at 5:30 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If both Jesse and Arnold were involved in the abuse in the classes, taking photos and so forth, they both would have known about the stash, and it seems clear that Jesse would have had a free hand to destroy anything the Feds missed after that first pass.

Yeah, that's true, and was mentioned earlier in regards to the "secret closet in the basement" -- the only problem with the theory of Jesse destroying evidence after the first pass is that he away at college during the time of Arthur's arrest and that the police ransacked his room/the house before he was able to return. Also, did police find any home photography kits -- is the assumption that they processed the film in their house and, if so, I assume that evidence of such was used against them?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:38 AM on June 27, 2013


the only problem with the theory of Jesse destroying evidence after the first pass is that he away at college during the time of Arthur's arrest and that the police ransacked his room/the house before he was able to return.

Well, he was at SUNY Purchase, not the moon; according to Google maps that's less than an hour from Great Neck. Obviously he wasn't there to prevent or destroy evidence during the first search. But it seems clear that he would have had ample opportunity to do pretty immediately afterward -- well before the local cops had interviewed their first witness. So the only question is, could the Feds have missed the stash? I agree it's improbable --- but it seems pretty far from impossible.
posted by Diablevert at 5:59 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The charges were always ridiculous (one molestation, sure. Two, sure. Five, sure. Eighty?

I'm envious of your naivete.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:18 AM on June 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't understand why not more attention is being brought to the now-adult victims. I think their words are pretty clear. It's one thing for a child to say something happened at the tender age of 8. It's another thing if they maintain that something happened 20 years later.

You do know that you can make yourself believe things that never happened, right? There are studies that had researchers take photos of peoples childhoods, and photoshop some into things that didn't happen (one i remember is a balloon ride with someone famous). All the people in the study then told them stories about when this happened, and they didn't believe it didn't happen. If you do this in your life, for 20 years or more, especially if you have others telling you it's true, then no amount of fact will let you believe it's false. This is why in cases that can ruin lives, there needs to be more than memories to go by, and if 80 victims is true, that should be mind boggling easy to get.
posted by usagizero at 7:26 AM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Before everyone throws up their hands and says "Oh well, guess he was guilty after all" I urge you to read the "key findings" of the report. This is nothing but a biased confirmation of the original highly problematic witness accounts. The majority of the issues raised by the documentary still stands.

All of the witness reports are wrong? All of them are false? Every single one? He's really not guilty after all?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:27 AM on June 27, 2013


You do know that you can make yourself believe things that never happened, right? There are studies that had researchers take photos of peoples childhoods, and photoshop some into things that didn't happen (one i remember is a balloon ride with someone famous).

Balloon rides are not scarring like sexual abuse. Please rethink your analogy.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:27 AM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


You do know that you can make yourself believe things that never happened, right?

You do know that you can tell the truth about the most awful things and strangers will assume you're lying, right?
posted by billiebee at 7:33 AM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems to me like the charges sound ridiculous in the film because they were filtered through the family discussion in a way that, of course, makes them seem inconceivable. On Arnold's part, 25 victims over 5 years, with most charges related to showing children pornography, a few others related to sexual contact, and only (it appears) two or three victims reporting that they were sodomized, sounds much less like hysteria and more like a child abuser using his access to a wide variety of children to select and groom his victims.
posted by muddgirl at 7:36 AM on June 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: “Balloon rides are not scarring like sexual abuse. Please rethink your analogy.”

Er – it may be a bad analogy, but the 1980s were rife with people who had been pushed so hard to remember nonsense satanic ritual abuse that they ended up "recovering" memories they actually never had. There's a term for this, in fact: false memory syndrome.

Personally, I don't believe these cases fit the profile of false memory syndrome. It is one thing to suddenly remember years later, with lots of coaching, that something happened that you didn't recall because you supposedly "repressed" it. It's another thing entirely to insist, from the moment it happened, that abuse occurred. These adults who were children then have never changed their stories; they are not suddenly recollecting something, they are maintaining a story they have told consistently. There is some inconsistency in some of the stories, but some obvious inconsistency is to be expected and actually suggests that they're faithfully giving their memories as they recall them without later distortion. The fact that so many of the children have stories which largely square with the events as they would have happened, stories which they have not recanted or rethought or taken back, is pretty powerful evidence, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 7:38 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eight Common Myths about Child Sexual Abuse

See especially:

"In truth, people are too quick to believe that the accused is innocent, even if there is plenty of supporting evidence."

and

"Contrary to the popular misconception that children are prone to exaggerate sexual abuse, research shows that children often minimize and deny, rather than embellish what has happened to them."

posted by billiebee at 7:40 AM on June 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


It always bothered me that the film maker chose the stoner kid with the 'leap frog' stories that defy belief to be the voice of the victim. It's a deliberate choice and it definitely sows seeds of doubt for the viewer. Nowhere in Capturing the Friedmans is the grooming process addressed and that is key. Serial child sexual abuse victims are carefully chosen. There would be the 'funny, naughty' video game, followed by any number of steps. I've read that abusers think that they are introducing ideas to hopefully willing participants.

I watched that damn thing again last night after being profoundly disturbed by it when it was initially out. The way the older son vilifies his mother is galling.
posted by readery at 8:03 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a deliberate choice and it definitely sows seeds of doubt for the viewer.

It was a deliberate choice to include the footage, but I can imagine it would be difficult for the filmmakers to find any victims willing to speak on tape - the conviction integrity review goes into a lot of detail about how difficult it was for them to contact victims, implying that it was partially because of the length of time that has passed (there's a natural inclination to let sleeping dogs lie) and partially because of the stigma of child abuse, especially male perpetrator-male victim abuse.
posted by muddgirl at 8:14 AM on June 27, 2013


(And partially because the makers of the documentary made it difficult to convince people to talk with the people doing the review.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:52 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Balloon rides are not scarring like sexual abuse. Please rethink your analogy.

It's not an analogy, it's a study. There are others: a study by Alfred Binet, for example, where children were shown a board with buttons glued to it, the board was taken away, and then they were asked what colour thread the buttons were attached with and lots of them 'remembered' seeing thread, while the control group, who were asked 'How were the buttons attached?', accurately remembered seeing glue*; or the 'Sam Stone' study, where children were primed to see a man as clumsy, and, given leading questions, later reported seeing him do clumsy things that had not, in fact, taken place.

Experiments are limited by medical ethics, particularly experiments on children. If you're testing to see whether you can implant a false memory, it would be incredibly unethical to implant a traumatic one; that could cause the children serious emotional harm. The upshot is that any such tests have to rely on leading questions about innocuous experiences. I haven't heard of the balloon ride study, but it sounds as if it falls under the same heading: you test whether somebody can be persuaded to 'remember' something that never happened, and for humanitarian reasons that thing has to be non-scarring.

From there, you have to extrapolate. When it comes to issues like the Satanic Panic, these studies are cited as evidence that you can persuade children to 'remember' fictitious events, and that therefore a child's testimony can be unreliable if it isn't gathered under very carefully controlled circumstances.

What this implies about the Friedman case, I feel entirely unqualified to say. They're important studies, though, both legally and psychologically, and their innocuous content isn't a reason to dismiss them, it's the reason they were allowed to be performed at all.


*I got the description of that out of Satan's Silence by Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker, p 150.
posted by Kit W at 9:00 AM on June 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your implication seems to be that since there are studies that show children's memories can be manipulated into misremembering things, its entirely plausible that the now-adult sexual abuse victims who did not recant their childhood testimony are possibly the victims of not sexual abuse, but adults who caused them to misremember things that happened in their childhood.

Now, can you point me to any research that shows that children can be caused to misremember things, and that memory sticks thoughtout adulthood?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:20 AM on June 27, 2013


Using a study about implating a memory of balloon rides or buttons to talk about false memories of sexual abuse assumpes that we can use studies of untraumatic memory formation to learn about traumatic memory formation. It is difficult to study memory implantation of traumatic events, but not impossible. The link billiebee provided cites many studies, with especially relevant ones under Myth 7 and Myth 8.
Saywitz, Goodman, Nicholas, and Moan (1991) studied the memory of 72 five and seven-year-old girls for a standardized medical checkup. Half of the children received a vaginal and anal examination as part of the checkup; while the other half of the children received a scoliosis examination of their back instead. The children's memories were later solicited through free recall, anatomically detailed doll demonstration, and direct and misleading questions. The vast majority of vaginal and anal touch went unreported in free recall and doll demonstration, and was only disclosed when children were asked direct, doll-aided questions. The children who received a scoliosis exam never falsely reported genital touch in free recall or doll demonstration; and false reports were rare in response to direct questions.
I don't have access to the full text to see what "rare" means. The study abstract says that the rate was "low."
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that is a distortion of what Kit W is saying - indeed, not what she "seems" to say at all.

Rather I feel, if I can be granted the liberty to speak to her argument, that she is simply saying there is rigorous research that indicates memories in children (and adults, for that matter) can be unreliable and easily manipulated.

She explicitly calls out that she has no opinions on how this relates to the Friedman case, merely that to dismiss this research out of hand is unwarranted. I think your personal views are colouring your interpretation somewhat.
posted by smoke at 9:28 AM on June 27, 2013


Yes, my personal view is that bringing up research about children's false memories of trivial subjects in a discussion about adult memories of childhood sexual abuse is uncalled for, especially when the person who brought up the subject did so to suggest that the adult victims of Jesse Friedman were made to believe things that never happened to them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:34 AM on June 27, 2013


I mean, would you discuss false memories in the context of rape? No, of course not.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:35 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, would you discuss false memories in the context of rape? No, of course not.

The people who research false memories do so all the time. I think it's valid to bring up this research, and I don't think that mentioning it means that the people pointing to the research are suggesting that children are always unreliable witnesses of abuse.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:00 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rather I feel, if I can be granted the liberty to speak to her argument, that she is simply saying there is rigorous research that indicates memories in children (and adults, for that matter) can be unreliable and easily manipulated.

Yes. Whether research on untraumatic memories maps easily onto traumatic memories, I am not qualified to say, and whether that means it's what happened in the Friedman case, I wouldn't presume to say.

All I was saying was that to call the 'balloon' study an 'analogy' was an unfair description. It's a scientific study (or at least, the comparable studies I cited are); 'analogy' suggests something altogether looser. It may not be a study that you consider relevant, but that's another question.


Half of the children received a vaginal and anal examination as part of the checkup; while the other half of the children received a scoliosis examination of their back instead.

Fair enough, but surely we all hope that the vaginal and anal examinations weren't traumatic for the subjects either?


Using a study about implating a memory of balloon rides or buttons to talk about false memories of sexual abuse assumpes that we can use studies of untraumatic memory formation to learn about traumatic memory formation.

I'm not proposing that we make any such assumption. I'm simply proposing that we distinguish between an analogy and a study. That really is all I was saying. Now I'm wishing I hadn't said anything.


I mean, would you discuss false memories in the context of rape? No, of course not.

What the Friedman men were accused of doing was rape.
posted by Kit W at 10:02 AM on June 27, 2013


Again, from the report:


"We were abused, tortured and humiliated by Arnold and
Jesse Friedman in computer classes in Arnold’s basement.
Many of us have physical scars from what was done to us:
all of us have psychological scars.

During this time, another victim, a law student, wrote the following to Judge Boklan:

It was under the guise of an educator, that Arnold and
Jessie Friedman used computer technology to show young
children pornography, to take photographs of young
children reacting to that pornography, and to take
photographs of sexual acts being performed by young
children. I was seven years old when I was in the custody of
Arnold and Jessie Friedman. At that time I did not
understand the dynamics of human sexuality. I only
understood fear. I became afraid of everything beyond my
control. My childhood curiosity was replaced with an
inherent distrust for adults, authority figures, and every
unknown."

Boy! Sure sounds like they could just be tricked into believing that!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:04 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Rape and child abuse are difficult topics here, please try to have good faith conversations and be mindful that you are all sort of copying/pasting the exact same excerpt from the report.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:07 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


This really seems like the OJ investigation, where the police were so corrupt they went to great lengths to frame a guy who was already guilty.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Societal acceptance of these myths assists sex offenders by silencing victims and encouraging public denial about the true nature of sexual assaults against children."

obviously outrageous allegations.

highly problematic witness accounts

The charges were always ridiculous (one molestation, sure. Two, sure. Five, sure. Eighty?

I remembered the number from the documentary as well as rather graphic details about the sex games. One involved leapfrog in a way that would have caused serious injuries. Those were two of the reasons I always thought it just couldn't be true.

You do know that you can make yourself believe things that never happened, right?

And then we say to kids "if someone touches you tell someone." But we don't add "but they probably won't believe you."
posted by billiebee at 10:48 AM on June 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


thanks for compiling those billiebee. There is some really egregious stuff here.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:51 AM on June 27, 2013


This really seems like the OJ investigation, where the police were so corrupt they went to great lengths to frame a guy who was already guilty.

Eh, doesn't come off that way to me if you read the full report, as I've been doing on and off all day. It's a complex case, but there are a couple of important points that are clear:

1) there was physical evidence to back some of the accusations and the children's descriptions of what went on. In particular, copies of sexually explicit video games were found at the house and in one child's possession

2) there were three sets of charges eventually issued against the Friedmans. The first two sets basically arose from two searches of the house, about two weeks apart, with witness interviews inbetween. The cops working the case interviewed a couple hundred people altogether. Most of the interviews came up negative --- for lots of reasons, such as the name turning out to be for an adult student or for a kid who's withdrawn from the course, as well as those who said they took it and nothing weird happened --- but 35 kids made some sort of accusation against Arthur or Jessee. 14 of those kids, IIRC, eventually testified in front of the grand jury. Given the compressed timeline of these first interviews, it augers against coaching or prompting from the LEOs. On day one, the cops didn't know for sure that anything illicit had taken place at all, and there were several teams of cops working independently whose interviews produced similar accusations, and they only had time to interview the kids once maybe twice. Nothing like the McMartin case.
3) All the more outlandish accusations -- leapfrog and all that --- most of that came out though interviews leading to the third set of charges. These interviews took place more than a year after the initial arrests, many of the kids were in therapy, and Arthur had already plead out of the case. Some of the testimony about the sex games was cooberrated by a teenage friend of Jessee who was given a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. In this set of interviews there seems to me to be a lot more room for conflicting interpretations. Three additional witnesses came forward with fresh accusations. The cops had more time and certainty as to what they were looking for and seem to have been more aggressive in their questioning. Maybe the victims were more forthcoming, now that time had gone by. Maybe pushy therapists and worried parents were inadvertently inculcating false memories. Some of the accusations seem outlandish. Some less so. "Simon says point at your dick" seems like the kind of thing a lot of jerkwad older brothers would say just to be assholes, though I could certainly see it being used to test/groom kids by a pedophile.
4) importantly, regarding the number of charges in the third indictment, which resulted from these accusations, the authors of the report point out that the criminal/legal definition of sodomy just means any contact between one person's mouth or ass and another person's genitals. Not full on anal sex, as it does colloquially. Further, prosecutors are entitled to bring two charges related to the same act, under two different theories of the crime, coercion and statutory. (IOWs, you could get 3 years because you forced them, plus another 3 years because they were 11at the time). So if the pedophile were to kiss the kid's genitals and then rub his own penis against them, that's four counts of sodomy in the first right there, committed with one kid in under a minute. Not hard to see how one could rack up 126 counts in that instance.

Putting all that together, I don't think frame-up job is the right way to think of it...
posted by Diablevert at 12:08 PM on June 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


That clarifies some things I was curious about, Diablevert. Thanks.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:11 PM on June 27, 2013


Tangentially related, but fascinating: at one time, people attended classes to learn computers. Not computer science. Computers.

Not classes in school--although many schools certainly owned microcomputers and taught BASIC--but classes in a private home, with private, non-certified instructors. For the Friedmans' students, learning computers was an afternoon-based, intellectual hobby, like learning how to use the abacus or learning model rocketry, that quirky, nerdy kids might take up on a whim. It was expected that the large majority would go into non-computer related careers, and never touch, look at, or encounter a computer again. Ever.

So, you've got a group of quirky, nerdy kids in a basement, enjoying an afternoon hobby, encountering--allegedly--computer pornography in its rawest and most primitive form.

If the allegations are correct, this may be one of the earliest instances of computer technology being harnessed into violent acts committed against kids. Chilling.
posted by Gordion Knott at 12:20 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Personally, I don't believe these cases fit the profile of false memory syndrome. It is one thing to suddenly remember years later, with lots of coaching, that something happened that you didn't recall because you supposedly 'repressed' it. It's another thing entirely to insist, from the moment it happened, that abuse occurred. These adults who were children then have never changed their stories; they are not suddenly recollecting something, they are maintaining a story they have told consistently. There is some inconsistency in some of the stories, but some obvious inconsistency is to be expected and actually suggests that they're faithfully giving their memories as they recall them without later distortion. The fact that so many of the children have stories which largely square with the events as they would have happened, stories which they have not recanted or rethought or taken back, is pretty powerful evidence, I think."

You're quite right that "recovered memories" are very different from contemporary child recollection.

However, what's not been discussed here and which is extremely relevant is that children are very sensitive to adult interviewers, and this is especially true in very highly emotionally charged situations like abuse investigations. There are law enforcement personnel who are specifically trained in interviewing children in this context. In 1990, I toured a new facility designed specifically for interviewing children after watching a presentation by a pair of investigators about the problems involved in interviewing children and the recent training and procedural changes that had been instituted to address them. These changes in training and procedure all came as the result of an increasingly realization that LE and counselors and others had been essentially leading children through fabricating events that didn't happen. It is very difficult to interview a child about something like this. It's entirely possible, but it's very difficult.

And prior to about twenty years ago, child interviews, and especially in the context of suspected sexual assault, were done very badly.

It's not just the investigators that are problems, it's parents, too. Unfortunately, the one thing that can't really be fixed are parental investigation and discussion with children about this stuff. It's especially fraught because children are more aware of their parents' emotional state and keen on doing whatever it takes to relieve anxiety than they are with other adults. This can often mean denial of sexual assault. It can often mean confirmation of suspected sexual assault that didn't happen.

The one way in which the recovered memory issue does intersect with this is what several people have mentioned — memories are very malleable, people who have initially very tentative recovered memories of ritual satanic abuse which didn't happen will come to be much more certain of those memories, and eliding contradictions, over time. The same thing will happen with children whose memories were contaminated at the time by poor interviewing or other influences and, given that this is a big, huge traumatic incident which they will continue to recall and, in some cases, talk about with counselors and others over the course of their lives, those contaminated memories will be absolutely real.

Also, I think that with the earlier discussion about research on the reliability of memory, there was an implicit claim that traumatic incidents are more like to be reliably recalled than mundane events. This isn't true. It's the opposite, really. Memories are distorted each time they are recalled, traumatic memories are usually repeatedly recalled over very long periods of time, often one's entire subsequent life. Those memories are more prone than most to become equivalent to the narrative that we tell ourselves about that traumatic event.

Now, importantly, none of this is to say that a child's attested experience of sexual assault is inherently any more or less suspect than an adult's, all things being equal. It is absolutely mistaken to discount child testimony of abuse on its face.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:42 PM on June 27, 2013


there was an implicit claim that traumatic incidents are more like to be reliably recalled than mundane events.

You're referring my comment, and this wasn't my implication at all. My implication was that we can't assume that memories of traumatic and mundane events are subject to the exact same forces, such that we can use research on one to make scientific or legal claims about the other. I THEN went on to present research on how children report sexual vs. non-sexual contact from a doctor, as an example of research that has been done specifically on traumatic memory formation.

Also, I would add that an imperfect recall of an event doesn't mean that it was a "false" or constructed memory. The conflation of these two separate phenomenon is a problem.
posted by muddgirl at 2:50 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You're referring my comment, and this wasn't my implication at all."

No, I really just had in mind the one-line response "balloon rides are not scarring like sexual abuse", which wasn't yours.

"I THEN went on to present research on how children report sexual vs. non-sexual contact from a doctor, as an example of research that has been done specifically on traumatic memory formation."

But those weren't memories of trauma?

"Also, I would add that an imperfect recall of an event doesn't mean that it was a 'false' or constructed memory. The conflation of these two separate phenomenon is a problem."

I've not conflated them in the sense you imply. The simple fact is that there's no "truth function" guaranteeing fidelity in memory. "Imperfection" means that memories can, and do, remain largely accurate and memories can, and do, become very inaccurate fabrications. There's no way to subjectively detect the difference.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:01 PM on June 27, 2013


However, what's not been discussed here and which is extremely relevant is that children are very sensitive to adult interviewers, and this is especially true in very highly emotionally charged situations like abuse investigations.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich



"Another study involved a perpetrator who pled guilty after videotapes documenting his abuse of ten children were found by authorities. Because of these detailed video recordings, researchers knew exactly what had happened to these children. They were thus able to compare what the children told investigators when they were interviewed to the videotapes. Despite this abundance of hard physical evidence, the researchers found a significant tendency among the children to deny or minimize their experiences. Some children simply did not want to disclose their experiences, some had difficulties remembering them, and one child lacked adequate concepts to understand and describe them. Even when interviews included leading questions, none of the children embellished their accounts or accused the perpetrator of acts that he hadn't actually committed (Sjoberg & Lindblad, 2002)."
posted by billiebee at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Points two and three in Diablevert's post seem to be key - you've got two separate rounds of interviews and investigations, either of which could be tainted without necessarily contaminating the other.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2013


[Folks. there is a MeTa thread about this post, please consider taking metacommentary there.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:38 PM on June 27, 2013


The charges were always ridiculous (one molestation, sure. Two, sure. Five, sure. Eighty?

I keep coming back to this because I guess your point is that it is ridiculous or unlikely for a molester to have that many victims. But molesters who are also pedophiles, as Arnold clearly was, usually have dozens or even hundreds of victims before they are caught. There's a good chapter ("The Problem") on this in Dr. Anna Salter's book on predators, showing that in study after study involving convicted offenders, they had outrageously large numbers of victims. In her career she also interviewed hundreds of offenders and none had fewer than 10 victims. She talks about one young pastor she interviewed who had 90 victims before he was caught in his 20s.

I think it's much more unlikely for a pedophile/preferential molester to have only one or two, especially one as old as Arnold Friedman. It's a compulsion they have starting in their teens. Once they cross the line from fantasy to acting on that fantasy, it becomes ridiculously easy to gain access to children and to molest them. How many did Jimmy Savile have? Probably hundreds. Jerry Sandusky? The man was in his sixties and had access to children for decades. He engineered things so he would have access to them. Arnold Friedman seems to have done exactly the same thing, spending his entire adult life working with kids and then continuing that after he retired. Since there's no doubt he was a pedophile, I honestly think the man had many victims.
posted by Danila at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think it's much more unlikely for a pedophile/preferential molester to have only one or two, especially one as old as Arnold Friedman."

I agree and, for me, the absolute number is not problematic. It's that number within the limited context (space and time) of the scenario the prosecution presented.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:05 PM on June 27, 2013


I keep coming back to this because I guess your point is that it is ridiculous or unlikely for a molester to have that many victims.

I don't think people objected to the idea that he could have had 80 victims over the course of his life. The documentary leaves one with the impression that he was alleged to have anally raped 80 individual children, in the open in a classroom, over a period of 3 years, without any of their parents noticing anything amiss, or any of the children who witnessed this saying a word. Just math-wise, it seems problematic from reading the report: The classes were pretty small, maybe a dozen kids at a time. He had started it only about three or four years before the arrest, and did three semesters a year, most of the sessions would have been after school --- he probably only taught a few hundred kids, ball park. If all you have done was watch the documentary -- and then were remembering it 10 years later -- it may well seem an unbelievable scenario, akin to the accusations in the Satanic Ritual Abuse cases. The documentary includes an interview with a journalist who was the first to debunk the SRA cases who explicitly draws this parallel.

The evidence in the report is more nuanced. I'm still not sure where this 80 number is coming from. Arnold Friedman went back and forth both before and after his conviction asserting his complete innocence at times and admitting to some of what he was accused of at times. In particular, following his guilty plea he sat down for a post-admission voluntary interview (even then, he started the session by claiming innocence) which eventually produced a signed statement where he admitted to having abused 41 children at various times throughout his life, some of who were witnesses in the case. Some of the children alleged to have been abused in the computer class he denied abusing in that interview.

So basically it's not clear how the specific accusations of individual witnesses line up with what he admitted to, and what he was willing to cop to changed a lot.
posted by Diablevert at 7:17 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, agreed, Diablevert. 80 victims in the course of a life is entirely possible---molesters often start early and continue for a long time. 80 victims over a period of three years is implausible. Friedman's confession is of dubious value, considering that it was undoubtedly produced as part of a plea deal.

My impression is that Arnold Friedman was a pedophile, who probably abused his son, and certainly possessed child pornography. But the computer-class allegations were one of the many false allegations of molestation made against after-school teaching programs (why day care centers and after school programs were a focus of these accusations, rather than churches where the abuse really was happening, is an interesting question in itself).

It's not that these things are too horrible to be true. It's that they involve things that are so physically and psychologically improbable that they deserve extreme skepticism. And I have little faith in a D.A.'s office to apply that skepticism to itself.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:28 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


you might want to consider reading the report or this thread or learn the actual details of the case before you decide what is plausible or not.
posted by nadawi at 10:07 PM on June 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


My impression is that Arnold Friedman was a pedophile, who probably abused his son, and certainly possessed child pornography. But the computer-class allegations were one of the many false allegations of molestation made against after-school teaching programs (why day care centers and after school programs were a focus of these accusations, rather than churches where the abuse really was happening, is an interesting question in itself).

It's not that these things are too horrible to be true. It's that they involve things that are so physically and psychologically improbable that they deserve extreme skepticism. And I have little faith in a D.A.'s office to apply that skepticism to itself.


I think you speak far too rashly, having not read the report. Again, there is physical evidence to back up some of the children's descriptions of what went on in the class. There were in fact adult witnesses who can corroborate some of the evidence as well.
posted by Diablevert at 4:46 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


80 victims over a period of three years is implausible.

There are 1095 days in a 3 year period. Why, exactly, is it implausible to molest 80 children within that time frame? What arbitrary rule are you applying?

the computer-class allegations were one of the many false allegations of molestation made against after-school teaching programs

You appear to be stating this as an absolute fact, not your opinion. Please don't do that. A man was convicted of abusing these children. You have no right to be judge and jury. Its hugely disrespectful to those who were found by an actual judge and jury, and subsequent investigation, to be telling the truth. You can give your opinions based on the evidence (although you seem to be ignoring that).
posted by billiebee at 7:25 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


80 victims over a period of three years is implausible.

this is a place that reading the report instead of just combing your memory for details will help - it wasn't 80 kids. please refer back to miko's comment.
posted by nadawi at 7:41 AM on June 28, 2013


For some perspective on the history of believing childhood sexual abuse claims, note that this paper had to exist in a high profile journal in 1984. The earliest paper they found strongly suggesting that girls get gonorrhea from sexual contact was 1965. It was usual for about a century lasting into the late 70s for doctors to believe that girls got gonorrhea known from bad hygiene and adults happened to get it from sex. I keep meaning to read more about this, but it 's tough to do without getting mad. Recommend this book; you can see most of the chapter on sexual abuse on free preview.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


nadawi: “this is a place that reading the report instead of just combing your memory for details will help - it wasn't 80 kids. please refer back to miko's comment.”

ThatFuzzyBastard is referring to Arnold Friedman's original plea, which was that he molested every single one of the 81 kids who attended his class. This citation is in the first link in this post:
The hysteria was compounded by Arnold Friedman's admission as part of his plea deal that he'd molested all 81 kids who'd taken his class, while prosecutors didn't question "outlandish" tales of "sex games" in his classroom.
However, this doesn't change the fact that this is an utterly different case now. At this point, the film, no matter how much the filmmakers may or may not have put into it, is an outdated source for information. The report here is the essential source that people should be returning to, not least because it was prepared under the guidance of a completely non-biased steering committee and not (as some have imputed) solely by the DA's office. People should read the report first at this point, before drawing conclusions.
posted by koeselitz at 8:34 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'll trust almost anyone's objectivity before I'd trust a prosecutor's.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2013


yeah, i know where the number comes from - but like you say, that's not the current information (and glosses over the past info where arnold changes what he admits to depending on when he's asked). i think people who describe this case (where two child molesters plead guilty and a secondary review was conducted that affirmed the findings of the case) as false allegations should at least be arguing from the proper facts or show any recognition that they've read the new material.

Navelgazer - would you trust the objectivity of one of the co-founders of the innocence project and the president of the aclu? because those were two of the people on the review panel.
posted by nadawi at 10:17 AM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The review team and the advisory panel aren't the same thing. The review team were prosecutor office personnel. The advisory panel were these external authorities. The advisory panel seems to have closely monitored and evaluated the review and that is far from trivial, but it's not at all the same thing as those experts doing the review themselves. At best, the opinion of those experts is a review of a review of the case.

I don't find the advisory panel's endorsement definitive because they still are limited to seeing what the prosecutor's office wanted them to see. The prosecutor's office was the gatekeeper. The advisory panel experts were not out there doing research themselves.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2013


i don't think people of that stature would sign their name to it if they thought they were being steered or that the da was covering up their own mistakes. i think their reputations and history with matters like these is very persuasive and they know that and wouldn't put that on the line if they weren't convinced.
posted by nadawi at 12:54 PM on June 29, 2013


I think that's a reasonable opinion, nadawi. But I weigh things somewhat differently. The advisory panel's endorsement is important, but that's countered by my very, very strong skepticism of the reliability of a prosecutor's office self-review in this context and that advisory panels are usually rubber-stamps.

I agree that these people on this advisory panel, with this level of apparent involvement, is something that should weigh quite heavily when evaluating the review. What I do disagree with, though, is that their judgment is definitive and that skepticism about the review is therefore unreasonable. It's been mentioned several times as if that were the case, and mentioned as if these trusted experts were the ones actually doing the review. If they had been the people actually doing the review, I would have found that definitive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:20 PM on June 29, 2013


i know that you're an ally to the survivor community and that you have a lot of history with it. i'm not trying to accuse you of anything or align you with viewpoints you've specifically spoken against in this thread. i'm speaking in an all over "here is why the specific narrative around this case is getting my goat" with some of your skepticism being just a part of it.

i guess the hard time i'm having is that when someone is accused of a crime like this, many people are quick to rush in and try to cool the room down and say "these are just accusations! innocent until proven guilty!" but then, even after they've plead guilty, confessed, served their time, had a review team look it all over, and a panel (with people who deal with wrongful convictions) affirm that, we're still hearing things like "accused of" and "allegations," etc. it's really hard to stomach.

are there wrongful convictions? absolutely. but this one has been so studied, and the facts of what happened are so separate from what the film portrayed, that i have a hard time with people still relying on that faulty narrative - and i don't mean opinion things of how the filmmakers saw it/the child molesters portrayed it - i mean on things like number and spread of victims and amount of physical evidence.

when do we get to say "he's a child molester"? how far are we going to move those goal posts? do we have to see him actually fucking a child? i mean - a lot of child molesters re-offend, so there's still a chance!
posted by nadawi at 1:56 PM on June 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


What I do disagree with, though, is that their judgment is definitive and that skepticism about the review is therefore unreasonable.

It's really not a very difficult read, i found it a rather nuanced document. There are a lot of people in this thread arguing about what they are inclined to think based on their perceptions of DAs or pedophiles or the people interviewed in the documentary. Those might be good baselines, but it seems silly to me to spend hours arguing over what is generally true in most cases when we have quite a large number of additional evidence to weigh which can help us judge whether those general things are true in this specific case.

It should also be noted that the review itself was conducted at the recommendation, but not the order, of the federal 2nd circuit court. Jesse Friedman has pretty much exhausted his legal remedies at this point. He has been trying to argue that new evidence has come to light that ought to overturn the verdict. Both state and federal courts have already rejected those claims, saying that he ran out of time to legally do so.

The 2nd Circuit, while saying that the Jesse Friedman's petition was untimley and therefore insufficient to overturn his verdict, nevertheless recommended that the DA investigate the case. I'm not sure exactly what the consequences would have been if the Nassau County DA had failed to act on that recommendation --- it's never wise to tell a federal judge to go screw --- but I think the DA could have done a far more half-assed job than they did if all they were concerned about was making the thing go away. Legally, Friedman is out of ammo, and was so before the review began.
posted by Diablevert at 2:25 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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