Central Park Five Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Calls Ava DuVernay’s 'When They See Us' An 'Outright Fabrication’ That Defames Her

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 15:  Safe Horizon's Linda Fairstein speaks during Safe Horizons presents an evening inside "Law and Order:SVU" at Crobar November 15, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

Central Park Five Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Calls Ava DuVernay’s 'When They See Us' An 'Outright Fabrication’ That Defames Her

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the former district attorney claimed the miniseries is "so full of distortions and falsehoods."

Published June 11, 2019

  1. In the wake of the backlash she’s faced for her role in the controversial conviction of the Central Park Five, former Manhattan District Attorney's office prosecutor Linda Fairstein is doubling down on her claims Ava DuVernay's mini-series, When They See Us, is a “basket of lies.”

    In 1989, Fairstein was the lead prosecutor in the case against five Black and Latino teenagers accused of a brutal attack and sexual assault against a white, female, jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park. The boys were imprisoned until serial-rapist Mathias Reyes confessed to the crime in 2002. DNA evidence connected Reyes to the crime and exonerated the five suspects, who were released from prison as grown men.

    With the release of When They See Us, Fairstein’s become the face of the wrongful conviction of Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. Eventually, the hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein began trending on social media and Fairstein was forced to resign from the boards of Vassar College, Safe Horizon, God’s Love We Deliver and the Joyful Heart Foundation.

    Fairstein, who released a series of novels and children’s books, was also dropped by her publisher.

    Now, Fairstein is speaking out in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal.

    Fairstein, who is portrayed by Felicity Huffman in the Netflix miniseries, claims When They See Us fabricates the truth and omits information regarding other attacks in the park.

    Fairstein wrote the series omits a riot of more than 30-people in Central Park that took place on April 19, 1989, the same night of the attack on the white, female, jogger.

    In her WSJ piece, Fairstein claimed the confession from Reyes "led some of these reporters and filmmakers to assume the prosecution had no basis on which to charge the five suspects in 1989."

    Fairstein went on to say the Central Park Five were not totally exonerated from other alleged crimes that occurred.

    "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," she wrote.

    In the end, Fairstein said When They See Us is "so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication.”

    "When They See Us, repeatedly portrays the suspects as being held without food, deprived of their parents’ company and advice, and not even allowed to use the bathroom. If that had been true, surely they would have brought those issues up and prevailed in pretrial hearings on the voluntariness of their statements, as well as in their lawsuit against the city. They didn’t, because it never happened," she wrote.

    On June 10, filmmaker Ava DuVernay spoke at Netflix’s final For Your Consideration Emmy event in Los Angeles and addressed the backlash Fairstein is currently facing.

    “I think that it’s important that people be held accountable,” explained DuVernay. “And that accountability is happening in a way today that it did not happen for the real men 30 years ago. But I think that it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did because it’s not about her. It’s not all about her."

    While DuVernay wants to remind everyone that this case is not all about Fairstein, many people who read her op-ed believe her inability to hold herself accountable should not be ignored.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)


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