MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A man who was portrayed in an Oscar-nominated documentary as he fought to overturn his guilty plea in a notorious 1980s sex abuse case sued a Long Island prosecutor Thursday, alleging she defamed him to bolster her conclusion that the plea should stand.
Jesse Friedman, a subject of the film "Capturing the Friedmans," accused Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice of concocting "outrageous" allegations about him, including a widely published statement that he created pornography involving child rape, incest and bestiality while a prisoner.
Friedman's attorney Ronald Kuby said Rice timed her statements to "have the greatest negative impact" on the public's perception of Friedman — last summer, as she neared the conclusion of a three-year review of the case.
Rice included the pornography allegation in her June 2013 report on the case, according to the lawsuit, and in press releases that became fodder for tabloid newspaper headlines including: "Jailbird Perv a Smut Writer."
Paul Leonard, a spokesman for Rice's office, issued a statement Thursday saying: "We view this lawsuit as meritless and will defend zealously against its allegations."
The lawsuit hit days before Rice, in her third term as district attorney, faces a Democratic primary in her race for the congressional seat held by retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.
Friedman is also suing two members of Rice's communications staff.
He is seeking unspecified monetary damages, retractions and corrections of the statements he said are false, and attorney's fees and other costs.
Friedman and his father pleaded guilty in 1988 to abusing 13 children who took computer classes at their Great Neck home. Friedman later said he accepted the plea deal to avoid a possible life sentence.
Friedman was released from prison in 2001 and has fought for more than a decade to clear his name.
A federal court in 2010 refused to overturn Friedman's conviction but found a "reasonable probability" that he was wrongfully convicted and encouraged Rice to review the case.
Last August, a Nassau County judge ordered the complete investigative file turned over to Friedman's attorneys as they prepare a motion to overturn his conviction. Rice's office is appealing the judge's ruling.
Koby and a Friedman spokesman said that in their push to exonerate him, alleged victims and others who attended the computer classes will testify "nothing untoward happened" in the Friedman home.