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Hypnosis Rigged Sex Case Against Him, Man Says

[Capturing the Friedmans] 

Kilgannon, Corey, New York Times, October 20, 2007

The 2003 documentary "Capturing the Friedmans" raised questions about the prosecution of Jesse Friedman, who in 1988 pleaded guilty as a teenager to 243 counts of sex crimes against children he and his father taught in computer classes in their Long Island home.

Mr. Friedman, who served 13 years in prison, has sought to overturn his case and clear the family name, an effort that seemed bolstered by the documentary, which featured a 24-year-old man who said he remembered
being abused as a child at the Friedman home in Great Neck only after being hypnotized.

Now Mr. Friedman and his lawyer, Ron Kuby, say they have obtained evidence indicating that some of the other youths who accused the Friedmans of the assaults were hypnotized before testifying to the grand juries that indicted them.

Mr. Kuby intends to prove that word of hypnosis being used on witnesses was withheld by prosecutors from Mr. Friedman and his lawyers when, facing a preponderance of lurid testimony, he pleaded guilty in 1988. Mr. Kuby hopes to persuade the judge hearing the case in Nassau County to overturn it, since hypnotically refreshed testimony is inadmissible in New York courts.

State courts have rejected Mr. Friedman's appeals twice in the past three years. A federal judge, Joanna Seybert, who has rejected other aspects of his appeals, has agreed to review the hypnosis aspect of the case, but only if she finds that Mr. Friedman did not exceed the statute
of limitations in filing his case, a decision that is pending.

Mr. Kuby's office has obtained recordings and printed material from public speaking engagements that occurred after Mr. Friedman's arrest. They feature therapists who treated his victims, Nassau County's top sex crimes police official and a hypnosis expert.

On the tapes, they discuss the value of hypnosis in treating victims who cannot recall being molested, according to conference descriptions. Mr. Kuby is seeking subpoenas to gain access to more material about the speaking engagements, and to enable him to interview the speakers and other officials who interviewed the children.

David Pressman, a lawyer with Mr. Kuby's firm, described the group as a self-congratulatory 

"medicine show, this group going around talking about what they did in the Friedman case and about hypnosis."

"You have a group of kids who initially said they were not abused, wrangled by a group of therapists who utilized highly suggestive methods like hypnosis until the kids emerged from the sessions with the most lurid and highly unbelievable examples of sexual abuse and going directly to the grand jury," he said. "There is no more inherently unreliable form of testimony than that."

In a recording from a 1989 conference in Washington, the first speaker introduces herself as Sandra Kaplan. Dr. Kaplan, who led a team of therapists who treated the victims, said the program would include 

"the use of hypnosis to help children remember in cases such as this."

Mr. Pressman said he could not discern what was discussed about hypnosis, because there were large gaps of silence throughout the recording, in about half of the three hours of talks. His request to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which held the 1989 conference, for a complete recording was denied. The group's press office did not return phone messages yesterday.

Dr. Kaplan, now director of the division of trauma psychology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, said she did speak to groups after the Friedman case, but not specifically about it. In addition, she said she does not practice hypnosis on victims who are scheduled to testify before grand juries.

Another speaker at the event, Dr. David Pelcovitz, said he vaguely recalled Dr. Kaplan's referring to hypnosis, and a discussion about it, at the 1989 conference.

Reached by telephone yesterday, he said patient-confidentiality agreements prevented him from speaking about the children he treated in the Friedman case, adding, 

"A lot of these people are still in a lot of pain."

Dr. Pelcovitz said: 

"Whether or not hypnosis was used, I just don't know, but I was never involved in any kind of hypnosis because I don't do hypnosis. I'm very aware of the whole false memories thing and how hypnosis could bring that stuff out."

In 1987, Jesse Friedman, then 18, and his father, Arnold, 56, were charged with sodomizing 17 children. Both denied molesting the children, but facing lurid testimony and life sentences if convicted, they pleaded guilty. Arnold Friedman committed suicide in jail in 1995.

The Nassau County district attorney's office, which is defending the case, did not return repeated calls yesterday.

Mr. Friedman, 38, was released from jail in 2001 and completed his parole in December. He recently moved from East Harlem to Queens and was married in February to Elisabeth Walsh, 28, who grew up in Great Neck with many of Mr. Friedman's accusers. After seeing "Capturing the Friedmans," Ms. Walsh, a hairdresser, contacted Mr. Friedman, offering her support and eventually marrying him.

Mr. Friedman, who now sells books on the Internet, said he hoped a successful appeal would help him shed his lifetime designation as an offender.

"None of those children were attacked in those computer classes, and there has to be healing, not just for me but for those people involved,"
he said.

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