Netflix has a knack for pumping out content faster than anybody else in Hollywood.
The streaming service has become such a gigantic force in the industry and for a brief moment, it actually overtook The Walt Disney Company as the most valuable media company in the world. It didn’t last long and then Disney acquired Hulu and 21st Century Fox since then.
They frequently pump out controversial content butnow a former prosecutor of Manhattan just penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal claiming the Netflix miniseries “defamed” her name.
Netflix just released a new series entitled “When They See Us,” which dramatizes the events surrounding the trial of the infamous Central Park Five case in 1980’s Manhattan, New York. Ava DuVernay, who is responsible for directing “13th,” “A Wrinkle in Time” and“Selma,” helmed the project.
The four-part series paints an awful picture of the prosecutors, investigators, and interrogators who put these five underage African American teenagers in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. They even blasted President Trump several times because he took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times asking to bring the death penalty back.
But above all, the person the fictional miniseries blasted the most was Linda Fairstein who ran the sex-crimes unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office – ironically, played by Felicity Huffman who is about to serve time for her role in the nationwide college admission scandal. They depict Fairstein as diabolical and ruthless. The character even forges evidence at one point.
As a result of this harrowing depiction of Fairstein, she resigned from two nonprofit boards as the backlash intensified for Safe Horizon and Vassar College.
Fairstein was even dropped by her publicist last week and apparently, enough was enough because now the 72-year-old ex-prosecutor is fighting back saying the miniseries is an “outright fabrication” and is “full of distortions and falsehoods.”
She wrote, “I was one of the supervisors who oversaw the team that prosecuted the teenagers apprehended after that horrific night of violence. Ms. DuVernay’s film attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them. None of this is true.”
The Central Park Five, as they’ve been coined since 1989, were all exonerated of the crimes they were convicted of, but after they had already served their prison sentences – all of which spent from 6 to 13 years in prison. And that’s when Matias Reyes admitted to that crime and DNA evidence would later even confirm his story. His backstory and criminal history also justifies his confession. He had been involved with numerous rapes during the 1980s.
Esquire senior writer Gabrielle Bruney wrote, “Reyes first met Korey Wise, one of the Central Park Five, when the two were imprisoned together on Rikers Island. There, they got into a fight over the television. But the two encountered each other again in 2001, in the Auburn prison yard, and had a friendly conversation. Reyes felt guilty for the fact that Wise was still imprisoned for a crime he had committed, and came forward to confess to raping and nearly murdering Meili in 1989.”
And in 2002, Reyes told investigators, “I know it’s hard for people to understand, after 12 years why a person would actually come forward to take responsibility for a crime. At first, I was afraid, but at the end of the day I felt it was definitely the right thing to do.”
Of course, investigators would never take a convicted felon for his word so they tested the DNA against Reyes’ and it came up as a match.
You can’t argue with the facts, but Fairstein doesn’t see it that way.
Fairstein wrote in her op-ed piece, “Mr. Reyes’s confession, DNA match and claim that he acted alone required that the rape charges against the five be vacated. I agreed with that decision, and still do. But the other charges, for crimes against other victims, should not have been vacated. Nothing Mr. Reyes said exonerated these five of those attacks. And there was certainly more than enough evidence to support those convictions of first-degree assault, robbery, riot and other charges.”
It wasn’t just dramatized in the Netflix series “When They See Us,” but it’s also been documented in numerous documentaries like “The Central Park Five” PBS documentary from Ken Burns and ABC News’ 20/20 piece “One Night in Central Park,” that the officers coerced confessions from the accused through manipulation and sometimes violence.
They promised to send them home if they confessed or pointed fingers at others. They lied and they knew exactly what they were doing. It’s well documented.
Remember when Reyes first met Korey in Rikers Island?
Well in 2002, Fairstein told the New Yorker, “I think Reyes ran with that pack of kids. He stayed longer when the others moved on. He completed the assault. I don’t think there is a question in the minds of anyone present during the interrogation process that these five men were participants, not only in the other attacks that night but in the attack on the jogger.”
Also, Jonathan Moore, the lawyer who represented the Central Park Five told Kate Storey of Esquire, “We know Matias Reyes committed the crime because his DNA confirmed it. When the DA reinvestigated the case, they concluded that he acted alone. One, it was his modus operandi for his nine rapes and murders that he committed in that part of New York in winter and spring of 1989. By definition, those statements are false and the question they don’t want to answer—Fairstein, all of the detectives—throughout this whole history is how did these kids get the information that ended up in their statements? And the only answer is it came from the cops. That’s why the city paid $41 million to settle the case because they knew they were going to lose on that.”
So that draws a he said/she said. Of course prosecutors and defense attorneys are going to defend their positions; they’re doing their jobs. But the one caveat and probably most important part that favors Moore is there is simply no way the city would pay out over $40 million to people who are guilty. They would fight it tooth-and-nail to the bitter end.
One might argue that it was a high-profile nationwide trial that captivated the nation and to settle it would simmer the outrage directed at the Manhattan prosecutor’s gross injustice. Or, that’s just plain silly and those kids were deprived of a good amount of their lives and they deserved that payout.
But here’s where it gets even worse for Fairstein’s defense.
Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions noted Fairstein’s op-ed was a “classic example of tunnel vision.”
She told Kate Storey, “This op-ed is a classic example of tunnel vision. None of the Five’s DNA was found on the jogger, despite confessions that claimed that they had forced intercourse on her. In contrast, Matias Reyes’ DNA was found on her sock. And despite an exhaustive 11-month investigation, the Manhattan DA’s office was unable to identify any link between Reyes and the Five. Reyes was also able to accurately draw and describe the crime scene, while the Five’s confessions got many basic facts wrong—like where the attack took place.”
It’s undeniable. Those are the facts. The convicted couldn’t get the facts straight and the confessed got the details right.
Lastly, it speaks volumes that Fairstein “demanded” script approval from director Ava DuVernay and Netflix. She didn’t receive it.