Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice just recently named a team of recognized law enforcement, legal and social science experts to work alongside the District Attorney’s office, as prosecutors begin their review of a high-profile sex crimes conviction from more than two decades ago.
The experts include a co-founder of the renowned Innocence Project, a former police chief and veteran of the NYPD, a criminal justice professor and victims’ advocacy expert, and a nationally-recognized former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. The panel will serve as an advisory body overseeing the investigation and offering suggestions based on their individual expertise. Members of the panel have each agreed to serve on a pro-bono basis at no expense to taxpayers.
In 1988, Jesse Friedman, then 19 years old, pleaded guilty to 243 charges involving the abuse of children who were students in an after-school computer class taught by his father from their Great Neck home. He served 13 years in prison before being paroled in 2001. Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman’s father, who also pleaded guilty to abusing these same computer students, died in prison in 1995. Friedman eventually appealed his case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, alleging that law enforcement used illegitimate methods to elicit information from victims, and that he was unaware of these methods at the time of his guilty plea. In August, the Court of Appeals upheld his conviction, but urged the Nassau County District Attorney’s office to conduct a complete review of the underlying case against the younger Friedman, expressing concern that the overbearing circumstances surrounding the case might have led an innocent man to plead guilty.
Following the court’s decision, Rice announced that she would take the unprecedented step of re-examining the case and the circumstances surrounding the younger Friedman’s 22-year-old guilty plea. In forming her investigative team, Rice said that she would not only appoint seasoned Nassau prosecutors and investigators who were not involved in the original case nor part of the prior administration that prosecuted the case, but also outside law enforcement, legal and social science experts who could assist the office and help ensure the transparency and impartiality of the process. In addition to this panel, the team might seek out the expertise of other subject matter experts if the re-examination warrants such input.
“This investigation involves a unique set of circumstances, so we designed an equally unique process that we believe will enable the fair and efficient evaluation of the case,” Rice said. “Nobody knows whether or not our re-investigation will upend Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea or corroborate it, but what we do know is that our review will be completely transparent and thorough and we will ensure that the system has done everything it can to determine the truth.”
Patrick J. Harnett: A 32-year veteran of the New York City Police Department and current law enforcement/public safety consultant. Harnett retired from the Hartford Police Department, where he served as the chief of police from June 2004 to July 2006. Prior to his tenure in Connecticut, Harnett served the NYPD as a three-star chief of the Transportation Bureau in 1998. He served in many command positions, including chief of NYPD’s Narcotics Division and commanding officer of the department’s Major Case Detective Squad. He was also the commanding officer of the Emergency Service Unit, the elite Tactical (SWAT) and Rescue component of the NYPD, and of the largest police precinct in the Bronx. As a consultant, he conducted operational and organizational reviews of numerous public safety entities, including domestic and foreign police departments, large universities, and municipal school systems. His reviews focused on assessing existing agency organization and operations, as well as implementing specific public safety action plans to foster information-led community policing.
Susan Herman: Currently a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Pace University, Herman served as the executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, the nation’s leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims, from 1997 to 2004. Prior to her directorship at the National Center for Victims of Crime, Herman served as the Director of the Domestic Violence Division of Victim Services in New York City (now Safe Horizon), Special Counsel to the Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, and Director of Mediation Services at the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Herman is the author of Parallel Justice for Victims of Crime.
Mark F. Pomerantz: A partner in the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and a nationally known trial lawyer, Pomerantz has extensive public and private experience in white-collar criminal and regulatory matters, has tried cases on behalf of commercial clients and individuals before juries and arbitration panels, and also has substantial appellate experience, arguing dozens of appeals before appellate courts throughout the country. He was a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and headed the Criminal Division in that office from 1997 to 1999. Pomerantz has taught advanced criminal procedure at Harvard Law School and federal criminal litigation, appellate advocacy and contracts at Columbia Law School.
Barry Scheck: As the co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Scheck is an award-winning scholar and legal advocate who has focused primarily on criminal justice policy and exonerating wrongfully-convicted people. In 1988, Scheck became involved in studying and litigating issues concerning the use of forensic DNA testing. This work not only shaped the course of case law across the country but helped lead to an influential study by the National Academy of Sciences on forensic DNA testing, as well as important state and federal legislation setting standards for the use of DNA testing. Scheck serves as member of New York State’s Commission on Forensic Science, a body that regulates all crime and forensic DNA laboratories in the state.