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Victims ask Academy to deny 'documentary Oscar'

Two men whom Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty to sexually abusing have written an open letter to voters, speaking out against the Oscar-nominated documentary on the Friedman family.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2004 20:04 IST

Two men whom Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty to sexually abusing as boys have written an open letter to Academy Awards voters, speaking out against the Oscar-nominated documentary about the Friedman family.

"Capturing the Friedmans," by director Andrew Jarecki, is among the favorites to win best documentary at the Feb. 29 Oscar ceremony. It examines the cases against Arnold and Jesse Friedman, a Long Island father and son imprisoned in the late 1980s for sexually abusing dozens of children.

The victims, now in their 20s, wrote that Jesse Friedman was "being paraded like a celebrity."

"If this film does win an Oscar, it will be won at the expense of silencing the plaintive voices of abused children once again, just as our own voices were silenced 16 years ago by the threats and intimidation of our tormentors, Arnold and Jesse Friedman," said the letter.

Jarecki said his film was a balanced piece, and that he had reached out to every child involved. He pointed out that the film's longest interview is with someone who has recollections of being abused.
"The film doesn't exclude that perspective in the slightest," he said Tuesday. "I didn't set out to make an advocacy film for the Friedmans, and I didn't make one."

However, Jesse Friedman, now 34, is seeking a new trial to overturn his conviction based on information revealed in the documentary. And in an earlier interview, Jarecki told The Associated Press that he was "very supportive" of Friedman's quest for a new trial, and that people "come away from the film thinking that Jesse was railroaded."

The men who wrote the letter list their ages as 24 and 27 and their occupations as graduate student and businessman, respectively. They did not reveal their names.

The judge who dealt with their case, Abbey Boklan, who is now retired from her Nassau County court, confirmed that the two men had been among the 13 children Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty to abusing. A copy of the letter was provided to The Associated Press by Joyanna Silberg, a child psychologist and member of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, which is conducting a campaign against the movie.

"Whether it was on purpose or whether Jarecki was misled, he presented a documentary that coveys an impression of the case that is erroneous," Silberg said.

"Capturing the Friedmans" won the documentary grand prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was named best nonfiction film by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Jesse was 19 when he pleaded guilty to the sex abuse charges in 1988. Authorities said he and Arnold Friedman molested dozens of children during computer classes in their home.

Jesse was sentenced to 6 to 18 years and was paroled after 13 years in prison; he is now a registered sex offender who lives in Manhattan. His father, an admitted pedophile who was also convicted of sending child pornography through the mail, died in prison in 1995.

First Published: Feb 23, 2004 20:04 IST