Press Releases & Statements
For Immediate Release
Judge Teresa Corrigan Asked to Recuse Herself in Jesse Friedman Case
Friedman’s Motion for Recusal Questions Impartiality of Judge Corrigan, Protégé of DA Kathleen Rice, the Central Figure in Opposing Friedman’s Bid to Have His Wrongful Conviction Overturned
Judge Corrigan Has Been Co-Attorney, Employee, and Friend of Friedman Opponent DA Kathleen Rice for 22 years
(Nassau County, NY – Tuesday, August 12, 2014) Judge Teresa Corrigan, who practiced law with Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice when they were colleagues in the Brooklyn DA’s office, and was later hired by Rice when Rice was elected Nassau DA in 2006, has been asked to recuse herself as presiding judge in Jesse Friedman’s case. Considering the close and longstanding nature of the relationship between Judge Corrigan and DA Kathleen Rice – Friedman’s primary opponent in his effort to have his wrongful conviction overturned -- the recusal motion calls into question Corrigan’s impartiality.
Ron Kuby, attorney for Jesse Friedman, said, “Judge Teresa Corrigan has been a protégé of DA Rice – Jesse Friedman’s principal opponent -- since the two practiced law together in the Brooklyn DA’s office over two decades ago. And Corrigan has been an ‘insider’ in DA Kathleen Rice’s office from when she was handpicked by Rice in 2006 as an Assistant DA, until Corrigan became a judge, with DA Rice’s support, in 2012. 27 years into Jesse’s effort to get justice in this sensitive case, he and the public should not be asked to trust the impartiality of a judge so deeply professionally and personally connected to Friedman’s primary detractor. Even the appearance of impropriety this conflict raises is enough to disqualify Corrigan.”
According to the motion to recuse, “The black-letter law of 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(b)(ii) is unambiguous and mandatory: a judge shall disqualify herself in a proceeding in which ‘a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter.’”
“The basis of this motion, and the fundamental issue that suggests to any even casual observer that the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, is that she is an ‘insider’ rather than an “outsider.” For six of the last eight years, Judge Corrigan was employed by DA Rice as a top Assistant District Attorney in the same office in which Friedman was originally prosecuted. During those years, the DA’s office assiduously opposed all efforts by Friedman and his supporters to have the case reviewed or evidence disclosed.
DA Rice’s Central Role in Fighting Friedman’s Efforts Makes it Impossible for the Public to Accept the Judgment of Her Friend Teresa Corrigan in the Case
During the years in which Corrigan worked for DA Rice, her office dismissed overwhelming exculpatory evidence, opposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, opposed a habeas petition in July of 2006, then opposed any hearings on that petition on procedural grounds, opposed any discovery on similar grounds, then opposed similar efforts before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
DA Rice’s aggressive defense of the improper practices of her office was exacerbated in 2010, when the Second Circuit issued an extraordinary opinion, concluding that there was a “reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted” and excoriating the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office for it’s incompetent and biased prosecution of the case. In the words of the Second Circuit:
“The quality of the evidence was extraordinarily suspect.”
“Police, prosecutors, and the judge did everything they could to coerce a guilty plea and avoid a trial.”
“The allegations also grew increasingly bizarre, sadistic, and even logistically implausible.”
“Prosecutors had no physical evidence and relied entirely on allegations made by computer students after being questioned by Nassau County detectives. No student had ever complained of abuse, nor had any parent ever observed suspicious behavior prior to the investigation. Indeed, Assistant District Attorney Onorato acknowledged, ‘there was a dearth of physical evidence.’”
“Aggressive investigation techniques like those employed in [Friedman’s] case can induce false reports”
“The tactics were so aggressive that several former students admit that they responded to them by falsely alleging instances of abuse.”
“Prosecutors have an obligation to curb police overzealousness. In this case, instead of acting to neutralize the moral panic, the prosecution allowed itself to get swept up in it.”
Though the US Court of Appeals called for the DA to allow the Friedman Case to be reviewed in court, DA Rice refused, instead choosing to have her own investigators handle a “reinvestigation” of the case. In July 2013, after a three-year review, the DA issued the “Rice Report,” a biased, error-filled, and defamatory document defending and justifying Friedman’s conviction by the same Nassau County DA’s office in 1988.
The Rice Report contains a number of demonstrably false claims designed to turn public opinion against Friedman to bolster her conclusion that Friedman was not wrongfully convicted after all.
According to Nassau County Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow (made on the record in a related ruling) the sole purpose of Rice distributing this false material was to make Friedman appear to be "a bad guy."
The veracity of Rice’s Report on the Friedman case, portrayed as the “last word” on Jesse Friedman’s effort to have his wrongful conviction overturned, was undermined in 2014 when Barry Scheck – the most prominent member of Rice’s hand-picked Friedman Case Advisory Panel -- issued an affidavit supporting Friedman’s 440 motion and calling for an evidentiary hearing and disclosure of the case documents long-withheld by Rice’s office.
In light of the central role DA Rice played in her office’s controversial handling of the Friedman case, it is clear that any determination by Judge Corrigan that was beneficial to Friedman would be widely seen as a further indictment of Rice and her longstanding opposition to the case. Given Rice’s close personal and professional relationship with Judge Corrigan, it would be impossible for the Judge’s verdict to be perceived as unbiased.
An Impartial Review of the Facts
According to state law governing judicial impartiality (NY Code of Regs, section> 100.3(E)):
“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where: the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party; or the judge has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;”
There should be no question of judicial impartiality in reviewing the evidence in Jesse Friedman’s motion seeking to overturn his conviction. From the moment the police began the harsh and unrelenting questioning of scores of young children who attended computer classes in the Friedman home in the late 1980s, the ability for Jesse Friedman to have a fair hearing of the evidence was compromised. As he appeared before a judge in 1989, who stated that she was “convinced of his guilt” without hearing any evidence at trial, and who told his attorney “if convicted she would sentence Jesse Friedman to consecutive prison terms,” the constitutional requirement for unbiased review of the facts was forever abrogated.
Today, Friedman seeks a fair and impartial hearing of the facts in his case. That can only be accomplished in an evidentiary hearing where evidence can be presented before an unbiased judge, where Friedman has access to the investigatory files, and where eyewitnesses can be questioned under oath.
In 1988, in the midst of a national hysteria regarding false allegations of child sexual abuse in schools and day care centers (epitomized by the now-overturned McMartin Preschool case), police alleged that Jesse Friedman, his father Arnold, and three other teenagers had violently abused hundreds of children attending after-school computer classes at the Friedmans' Great Neck home, though over a period of five years, no child or parent had ever complained, and no medical or physical evidence was ever produced.
18 year-old Jesse Friedman, then a freshman studying music and psychology at SUNY Purchase, was charged with 243 counts of child sexual abuse, and forced to plead guilty after being threatened with life in prison by Judge Abigail Boklan who, despite having heard no evidence in the case, was convinced of Jesse Friedman’s guilt. Friedman served 13 years in maximum-security prisons and remains branded as a Level III “violent sexual predator.”
After Friedman fought for decades to clear his name, in 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an extraordinary opinion, concluding that there was a “reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted
Barry Scheck, the most prominent member of District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s “Friedman Case Advisory Panel” and co-founder of The Innocence Project, submitted a sworn statement asking the Court to undertake a “full evidentiary hearing” and release to Friedman’s lawyers the original case files that have been kept secret by the DA for over 27 years.
In Scheck’s words: “I believe it would be desirable for the court and the parties, utilizing whatever procedural mechanisms the court deems suitable, to review materials not available to the Advisory Panel, such as grand jury minutes, the original case file, and the results of the re-investigation to aid in finally resolving, to the extent possible the issue of Jesse Friedman’s guilt or innocence.”
Scheck joins a chorus of other respected voices in criminal justice in requesting the disclosure of these files
In 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision stating there was a “reasonable likelihood Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted” and calling for the case files to be opened and the evidence presented at a new hearing. DA Rice refused.
In 2013, N. Scott Banks, the former law secretary for the Judge who convicted Jesse, wrote a letter of support requesting that Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Winslow “grant Mr. Friedman’s application, and direct the District Attorney to disclose this extremely relevant evidence to his attorneys and provide a level of transparency very much needed in this matter.”
In 2013, after reviewing the documents and holding multiple hearings on the issue, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow conveyed from the bench his grave concerns about the exculpatory nature of the materials withheld from Friedman, and ordered the disclosure of “every piece of paper” with Friedman’s name on it. DA Rice appealed the decision to the Appellate Court, Second Department. Oral arguments in the case are expected shortly.
For more information about Jesse Friedman’s wrongful conviction, go to www.freejesse.net.