screengrab from https://www.cbsnews.com/video/author-linda-fairstein-on-writing-crime-fiction-new-book-deadfall/
The Washington Post ran an op-ed yesterday that featured a former New York sex crimes prosecutor opining on the Kavanaugh-Ford kerfuffle and why she believed Ford was telling the truth. The op-ed is notable for two salient points.
The former prosecutor is currently a mystery novelist named Linda Fairstein. It is ironic that the op-ed makes no mention of Fairstein’s career. While it is true that from 1976 until 2002 she prosecuted sex crimes, there is a deeper and more malicious story.
She was the prosecutor in the Central Park Jogger case in 1990 that sent five young men to prison based on no evidence other than confessions that seem to have been coerced or fabricated:
On the night of the attack, five juvenile males – four African American and one Hispanic – were apprehended in connection with a number of attacks in Central Park committed by around 30 teenage perpetrators. The defendants were tried variously for assault, robbery, riot, rape, sexual abuse, and attempted murder relating to Meili’s and other attacks in the park, based solely on confessions that they said were coerced and false. Before the trial, the FBI tested the DNA of the rape kit and found it did not match to any of the tested suspects. The office of District Attorney Robert Morgenthau presented these findings to the press as “inconclusive”. They were convicted in 1990 by juries in two separate trials. Subsequently, known as the Central Park Five, they received sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years. Four of the convictions were appealed and the convictions were affirmed by appellate courts. The defendants spent between 6 and 13 years in prison.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist in prison, confessed to the attack. His DNA matched that found at the scene. The convictions were vacated and the City of New York paid out $41 million in a malicious prosecution lawsuit. The year, 2002, coincides with a key year in Fairstein’s professional bio.
The other famous case pushed by the zealous Ms. Fairstein was People vs. Jovanovic. The case was pressed despite a great deal of evidence that consensual sex was involved, “Police determined that the allegations did not merit charges, but Linda Fairstein, then head of the sex-crime division of Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office, decided to press charges after speaking to Rzucek.” Jovanovic was convicted and sentenced to 15-to-life. He appealed and an appeals court dismissed his charges, with prejudice, on the grounds that Fairstein’s office had abused New York’s Rape Shield Law to keep exculpatory evidence away from Jovanovic. That dismissal was in 2001…a year pretty close to a significant year in Fairstein’s personal bio.
There are probably thousands of other such cases in Fairstein’s portfolio if one had the time to re-investigate her cases. These men just got very lucky and lived through the experience.
So, the writer of the op-ed never bothers to tell anyone that the source she is using has a documented track record of being wrong in her assessments of the evidence of sex crimes. And of being reckless and irresponsible in her judgment calls.
But, according to Fairstein, it was completely normal that Ford “didn’t remember” several details.
“If she testifies, I would expect her to say ‘I don’t remember’ scores of times,” Fairstein said, for two reasons: the passage of time and trauma. “She found this experience so upsetting that she felt her life was in danger. There might be 220 things she doesn’t know and then a very specific sentence about what happened that was so traumatic.”
“To me, it’s compelling that [Ford] puts someone else there, and that the person who happens to be in the room has a blackout drinking problem,” said Fairstein. Judge, now a filmmaker and author, described himself similarly in his book “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk.” “That’s sort of the intoxicated behavior she described that night,” she added.
“Ford mentioned details — like the pool party, the narrow staircase, that the house was in Montgomery County. There are enough facts for someone to remember it was their party and their house,” said Fairstein.
Although Ford requested anonymity, Fairstein said that most sex abuse victims don’t want anyone to know, let alone put their private lives on display for the nation.
Instead, Fairstein was more focused on the initial disclosure, calling it a “corroborating detail.”
“I think it helps [Ford] that there was an outcry to the counselor long before this nomination occurred. We always look for that to support an accusation wasn’t a newly formed complaint,” Fairstein said. Ford didn’t come forward to prosecute Kavanaugh but with a piece of information that, she believed, was relevant to his character before this became a very public issue, Fairstein said.
A short digression…
One of my favorite television series, ever, was Homicide: Life on the Streets. It was filmed in Baltimore. It hired local drug dealers as extras to play, you guessed it, local drug dealers. It was shot on location. The crew even made one arrest when a fleeing robber blundered onto the set location and surrendered to a half dozen actors dressed as policemen. But my favorite part was some on the insights. In the scene below, seasoned detective Frank Pembleton (played by Andre Braugher) is breaking in brand new addition to the squad, Tim Bayliss (played by Kyle Secor). The subject is how to determine if a suspect is guilty. The scene starts at 44:23.
Pembleton: What do you observe about the suspect, Detective?
Bayliss: Ah, let’s see. Approximately five ten, one fifty. He’s got, ah, scratches on his left chee—
Pembleton: No no no. The suspect is asleep.
Bayliss: Oh yeah. He’s been in the room for four hours.
Pembleton: Rule number four: a guilty man left in the box alone falls asleep.
Are there any other rules?
Pembleton: Yeah. Uncooperative. Too cooperative. Talks too much, talks too little. Blinks, stares, gets his story straight, messes his story up. There are no rules. It’s an expression.
This is the same process Fairstein uses to evaluate Ford’s claim. No witnesses…that’s good. Too many details…good, it’s trauma. Can’t remember…that’s good, trauma. Remember the number of people in the room? Of course, she would recall that accurately. Can’t remember the freakin month or year. Wow…trauma. Told someone at the time…that is corroboration. Didn’t tell anyone at the time…to be expected. Told someone 30 years later…classic corroborative detail. The story stays the same…of course, trauma. The story changes…trauma does that.
In short, for Fairstein, every possible permutation of a story is actually evidence that the person telling the story is truthful.
Somehow this interview seemed appropriate:
My Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Ford stories:
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