Capturing the Friedmans (2003) Script

Hi! Hi, it's me. It-- Oh.

We're not ready yet?

Hi. Hi, it's me, Jesse.

Are we-- we there? Yeah, okay, good, we're there.

Uh, well, this afternoon, after a very lousy sketch about yo-yoing, I figure we'll, for lack of anything better to do, we'll take it towards a more serious side right about now, and we're going to conduct an interview with...


Arnold Friedman, my father. Oh, God.

Jesse: I still feel like I knew my father very well.

I don't think that just because there were things in his life that were private and secret and shameful that that means that...

No, no, no, no.

...the father who I knew, and the things I knew about him were in any way not real.

The other day I was walking down the street...

♪ ♪

♪ They're gonna put me in the movies ♪

♪ They're gonna make a big star out of me ♪

♪ We'll make a film about a man that's sad and lonely ♪

♪ And all I gotta do is act naturally ♪

♪ Well, I'll bet you I'm a-gonna be a big star ♪

♪ Might win an Oscar you can't never tell ♪

♪ The movie's gonna make me a big star ♪

♪ 'Cause I can play the part so well ♪

♪ Well, I hope you come see me in the movies ♪

♪ Then I know that you will plainly see ♪

♪ The biggest fool that's ever hit the big time ♪

♪ And all I gotta do is act naturally ♪

(film projector whirring)

Arnold liked pictures.

I mean, that's-- let's face it.

He liked pictures.

Well, we're here.

This is it, the whole family assembled.

Everybody in Great Neck, New York.

♪ ♪

Elaine: We had three sons.

David, being the oldest, had a lot of responsibility when he was young.

Seth was an outright rebel.

And somehow, Jesse was just like the... the one that-- that keeps trying to catch up and doesn't quite make it.

I have very good memories of the-- of-- of my-- well...

I have very good memories of my childhood.

I had a great time growing up.

We had a great, um...

I had a great time because of my friends.

And my father was-- was great.

I mean, he may not have been the best father, but-- but-- but-- he-- he-- he, um, he went to Columbia University.

And then when he graduated, he went to the Catskills to play in his band.

♪ ♪

♪ The Jazzbo Mambo with the boogie beat ♪

♪ Is the newest dance on 52nd Street ♪ David: The band was called Arnito Rey and his Orchestra.

My father's name was Arnold Friedman.

This was in the late '40s and early '50s, so he played Latin music.

It was very big at the time, and so he changed his name to Arnito Rey.

♪ They're doing Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪ I don't know. My dad was a cool guy, you know?

He was a schoolteacher, and I think that, um, the other kids liked him, and he liked the kids.

But he didn't like spending a lot of time with his wife.

So, he would teach high school during the day, and then, after school, he would come home and teach piano lessons and later computer lessons in the house.

And that was, of course, more time he didn't have to spend with his wife.

I'm not that anxious to talk about his father, because, you know, we were divorced, and...

But his father... he would-- whatever, I don't-- really don't want to talk about it.

In case anybody didn't know, I'm the father of this family.

I'm never in the movies, never see me in any of the pictures, but I really am the father.

And we're all gathered together while David is messing up the camera here.

No, he's taking a good movie, and zooming in and out.

When you see me on this-- (laughs) Okay, shut it.

David: He died of a surprise heart attack, about five years ago.

And it was very, very sad.

He was, um, you know... selfless and altruistic.

Andrew Jarecki: But in the end, he wasn't together with your mom?

He wasn't together with my mom at the end.

And when did they make the decision not to be together?

Long before he died?

Um, couple of years before his death.

There's a lot I-- there's a--

Well... whatever.

There's some things I don't wanna talk about.

♪ ♪

(clears throat)

(sighs) Well, this is, um, this is private, so if you don't, if you're not me, then you really shouldn't be watching this, because this is supposed to be a private situation between me and me.

This is between me now and me in the future.

So, turn it off.

Don't watch this. This is private.

If you're the fucking-- Oh, God... the cops.

If you're the fucking cops, go fuck yourselves.

Go fuck yourselves 'cause you're full of shit.

Back in 1984, US Customs had seized some child pornography, addressed from the Netherlands, in the mail to Arnold Friedman.

Now, he never got that piece of mail, but his name was forwarded on to us, so what we would do then, would be to initiate a correspondence with Arnold in the hopes that we can determine if he is, in fact, willing to violate the statute again about mailing or receiving child pornography.

"Dear Stan, the book is 'Joe, 14, and his Uncle.'

"I think I'd like you to send me something, "sort of good faith, "and I will forward this rather precious book to you.

Thanks, Arnie."

See, it's very hard to believe that this so-called "good marriage" was so... disturbed.

He sent them these pictures, and he sent them a note, that I remember 'cause the lawyer got the note.

And then he wrote "Enjoy."

McDermott: Since he had sent the magazine, he was always asking for it back.

So, I asked the prosecutors, "Let's grant him his wish. He wants his magazine back."

I dressed up as a mail carrier, knocked on his door, asked him if he was Arnold Friedman, he replied he was, and I said, "I have a package for you Sign right here." He did.

About an hour later, we went back.

We would give him some time with the magazine.

I'm dressed now, I just put a blue suit jacket over the carrier's uniform.

And I told him I have a search warrant for child pornography.

He says, "There's nothing like that here."

And I said, "You don't recognize me?"

I'd just been at his door an hour ago.

He goes, "No."

And I took off my jacket, and I said, "Now do you recognize me?"

"Oh, yeah. Oh, okay.

The magazine is upstairs."

(camera clicking) So, we went up to his bedroom, in the top dresser drawer was the open magazine.

Well, he thought we would take the magazine and leave.

I said, "No. No, we have a search warrant.

We're gonna search the whole house for child pornography."

(camera clicking)

And around that time, his wife showed up.

I thought they were searching like for marijuana or something.

I didn't know what they were searching for to tell you the truth.


I thought it was a big mistake.

One of the first things we went to was his office.


I remember just as I was about to pull out a drawer, Mr. Friedman came rushing in and said, "Wait, I'll get that for ya."

And said, "Here. This is, this is all that's there."

And it was one piece of mail from the Netherlands, but it was child pornography.

And he said, "That's it. That's all there is."

And I said, "Well, that's great, Mr. Friedman, but we're still gonna search."

And he goes, "I don't-- I don't understand

"why you don't-- why don't you go when I tell you that's all there is."

And I said, "Well, we don't believe you."

Well, it's not something he sort of left lying around on the kitchen table.

He wasn't proud of it, and he kept it hidden.

He had his office downstairs.

It wasn't like right there, you had to go downstairs, and around the corner to get to his office, and he said-- we used to have someone that cleaned-- he says, "Don't let her clean in here.

It's okay. I don't want my things disturbed."

So, all right.

I never went in there.

McDermott: Then one of our inspectors moved the piano that was in that office, and that's where his stash of magazines were held, behind the piano.

Elaine: And this was Arnold's secret.

He liked to look at pictures of boys.

And it's not that he acted on these things.

He just wanted to-- to look at these pictures and meditate or...

McDermott: And these are listings of the magazines that were found behind the, uh, piano.

"Young Boys and Sodomy,"

"Incest Case Histories," something called "Chicken Pickin's Magazine."

And in addition to that, we found evidence of a computer class being taught there by Mr. Friedman.

And we did seize some list of names that we thought could be students.

I remember walking in there saying, you know, "God damn. We could have a problem here."

Frances Galasso: Just when you think everything is going to be dull, something gets dropped on your lap, you know, and it turns out to be something bigger than you ever-- than you ever thought.

What happened was one of the detectives from the vice squad came in to see me.

And he had a list, and it was at that point that we were able to learn that these were computer classes that went on literally every day of the week and Saturday.

And we drew a big map of the whole village of Great Neck, sectioned it off, and started sending detectives out to do interviews.

She set us up in teams, uh, male, female teams.

And, uh, we got a list of alleged victims.

As soon as we went into the house-- we were usually approached by the mothers-- and we explained why we're there, what we're doing there, and we'd really like to talk to their children, preferably alone.

Galasso: The parents were becoming impatient.

They wanted something done immediately, but you always want to be very careful about how you proceed.

Because the one thing that you worry about, I know I worried about it all the time is, uh--

Just charging somebody with this kind of a crime is enough to ruin their lives, so you wanna make sure that you have enough evidence, and that you're convinced... that you're making a good charge.

Jarecki: And how much time was there between the time the postal inspector searched the house and the time that you went in for the second search?

Well, it would've been less than a month, because we did that the day before Thanksgiving.

♪ ♪ A prominent middle-aged teacher in a prosperous Long Island town is charged with sodomizing young boys who were his students.

Newsman: Police are charging that sexual abuse went on behind the doors of 17 Picadilly Road in Great Neck.

Galasso: We rang the doorbell.

As soon as he realized who it was, uh, he wasn't gonna let us in.

So one of the detectives broke the door down.

And when we went into the premises at that point, Arnold was by himself.

His wife was out shopping.

I was out... to the store to buy a Thanksgiving turkey.

And I go up the front walk to the house and there are people all over the house.

And my husband is sitting, looking very sheepishly in the dining room, handcuffed.

Galasso: By this time, just about every news organization you could name had arrived on the scene.

David: I went home for Thanksgiving.

Got to the house, and there's cops and news trucks all over the place.

And, um...

I got worried, of course.

When David came to the house, we were able to ascertain eventually the type of business he was in.

And we heard that he was involved in children's entertainment in the form of some sort of clown activities.

I was there when the clown came in.

He was ranting and raving.

We had words, and I was going through the folders.

We told him to take a hike.

And he kept trying to come into the house, and I kept telling him that he couldn't, that he had to leave.

He wasn't allowed while we were searching.

And finally, he came in for the last time, he bent down.

I really thought he had a weapon in the duffel bag.

Everybody kind of, you know, reached for a gun at one point.

He came out and what he came out with was a pair of Fruit of the Loom underwear.

And he started prancing around, flailing his arms in the air saying, "Look at me. Look at me. I'm an asshole. I'm an asshole."

David: They're harassing my father for no reason at all!

If I had had some kind of Arabian sand scarf I would have wrapped that around my face and been Lawrence of Arabia, which might, maybe that would have been better.

But I took out underwear and I put it on my head, 'cause I didn't want to be on camera.

(indistinct radio transmissions) (cameras clicking)

Newsman: The first arrested was Arnold Friedman, a retired schoolteacher who was charged with sodomizing boys aged 8 to 11.

The charges are, uh, that while running a computer school, Arnold Friedman and his son engaged in various forms of, uh, sexual abuse against minor children.

Jesse pulls up coming home from school.

His friends dump him out of the car.

David sort of grabbed me, and, um, we were sitting a couple of houses down sort of on the sidewalk, and he was saying something to me, and then, one of the TV cameras came over, so we kind of ran to the backyard, and we went behind the house, and we were in the backyard of our house.

And the cops came back and they said, "What's going on here?" I said, "Don't worry about it. It's just me and Jesse."

And they said, "Well, we want Jesse.

We need Jesse in the house now."

Of course, we thought, you know...

We didn't know why that was.

Onorato: As we conducted more interviews of the children, Jesse's name started to pop up.

And Jesse was there, and what did Jesse do?

And then eventually we were able to ascertain that Jesse's role was not one of, you know, helping his dad conduct the computer class, but basically abusing the children himself.

We didn't have children telling us that Arnold had slapped them around.

But quite a number of the kids reported incidents of being slapped and having their hair pulled or their arms twisted by Jesse.

He was, by far, the more violent one.

All these policemen said that Jesse was some kind of aggressor, that even his father was cowering, and Jesse was this sexual, molesting tyrant.

I challenge anyone to find anyone who Jesse had even teased as a child or called a name.

Jesse was not an angry person.

He was not an upset person.

So, we ended up spending a lot of time together.

I was over at his house three days a week, four days a week.

And as far as I know him, none of this ever happened.

Not on my watch.

(indistinct radio transmission)

Newswoman: Eighteen-year-old Jesse Friedman also stands accused of sex abuse and using a child in a sexual performance.

Jesse: The only thought that I just kept having the whole night was "we're gonna get bailed out, "and then we'll get home, and we'll figure out what's going on.

And the lawyers will take care of this, and they'll straighten this out."

Because it was still just a matter of, "This is a big misunderstanding."

But when the bail was set at a million dollars, instead of going out with Mom and David like we were supposed to, we went back the other way.

And that was the moment when... there was this whole new sense that the problem was much worse than I originally thought.

♪ ♪

Galasso: The investigation didn't end at that point.

That really was the arrest and the search of the house.

And then we went on, because we had literally, at that point, dozens more interviews to do.

Elaine: Somewhere along the way, I think it was the Nassau County cops, they showed me this magazine, and they said, "You see? Look at this magazine."

And they showed me the magazine.

They were embarrassed to show it to me, because of what the pictures were.

And, you know, I didn't see it.

My eyes... were in the right direction, but my brain... saw nothing.

Because when it was all over, the... the lawyer showed me the magazine, and then I saw it for the first time.

I really saw it.

And I just-- I couldn't believe what I saw.

I mean, I had no concept that this thing even exists in the world, that this magazine would even be in the world.

This is-- I mean, we had a middle-class home, educated.

I had a good family, right?

Where did this come from?

Mr. and Mrs. Friedman's house on this most beautiful Thanksgiving dinner.

(group cheering)

For my daughter, for my son-in-law, and for my three grandsons.

I'm thankful that both my brothers are home.

And I-- (laughing)

I'm most thankful...

(indistinct shouting) my husband, to Arnie.

Group: Aw!

Man: Anything you want to say, Mr. Friedman?

Are you guilty? Did you do all that they said you did?

No comment.

Howard: I was the first to visit my brother in prison.

And that was a... a moment in my life I'll never forget.

He came into the room, I was sitting at this table.

A lot of tables, and, you know, crowded, and just awful surroundings.

And he didn't have his glasses on.

Without his glasses, he was blind as a bat.

They'd taken 'em off and broken them, stepped on 'em.

He had a smell of urine. They were throwing urine at him.

They were threatening to throw him down the stairs.

They knew what he was in there for.

The media, it was all over the media.

And he was half-blind and hadn't shaved in two days and shivering and cold and scared out of his wits.

The first words out of his mouth were, "Howie, they're gonna kill me.

They're gonna kill me. Get me outta here."

(exhales sharply)

Man: The People versus Arnold Friedman and Jesse Friedman.

Indictment 67430.

Step up, please.

Newswoman: So began the very first time cameras were permitted in a Nassau County courtroom.

56-year-old Arnold Friedman, and his 18-year-old son, Jesse, heard the court clerk read off a 91-count indictment charging them with sodomy and sexual abuse.

Man: Arnold Friedman, how do you plead to this indictment?

Guilty or not guilty? Not guilty.

Man: And Jesse Friedman, how do you plead to this indictment?

Guilty or not guilty? Not guilty.

Howard: My brother and Jesse kept saying they're innocent.

This is trumped up charges.

And they got a McMartin's. You know, they... uh, they-- they somehow got one kid to-- to-- they got the police to be able convince the kids, "Well, all your friends said something happened. Didn't something happen?

Something musta happened." Et cetera, et cetera.

And they were convinced.

They-- they kept saying they were innocent.

And I just kept thinking, "Well...

I have to believe them."

It's very hard for people to accept him as a-- as a pedophile.

Arnold Friedman was an award-winning teacher.

All over the house were plaques and newspaper articles written about him.

He had been given an award, "Computer Teacher of the Year."

He also taught piano.

♪ ♪

Elaine: David plays beautifully.

And his father taught him how to play the piano.

David: It was when he died that I realized how much of an impact he had on my life.

Arnold: Take a bow.


He, um, he was very supportive of my magic, um, when I was a kid.

When I was about six, my father took me to a magic show.

And it's probably my earliest memory.

You know, when your son goes to college, and you say, "Go to college. And--

"And what are you gonna be?

Be a doctor. Be a lawyer."

I tried to make him into a doctor or a lawyer.


David: You know, my mom would always say, you know, "Get a job, get a job."

But my dad would say to me, "You know, David, I can't tell you what to do, because you know what I did when I got out of college."

He blew off his chemical engineering degree, which he could have worked for an oil company and made tons of money.

Instead, he played in the mountains, which is a total blow-off, follow your dream, artistic thing.

And I totally love him for that.

Man: Trust your children to somebody who was a schoolteacher for over 20, 30 years, a member of your community.

All you heard were accolades about this person, and now, all of a sudden, he's a monster.

And things that were being said... you know, upset the community, because you don't expect that here.

♪ ♪

Elaine: Great Neck is a peninsula.

It's a very insulated community.

This was a certain kind of person that lived in Great Neck.

It's on the North Shore of Long Island, which is usually a predominately wealthy area.

These are wealthy professional people that have garnered a great deal of income in their lives, and they live accordingly.

Sgueglia: Nice community.

Tight. Affluent.

Um, well-kept homes.

They get dressed up to go shopping.

They-- they want to be sure they get seen by the people they want to see.

And cars are important, clothes are important.

Father of Computer Student: There's a lot of competition in Great Neck.

Everybody's kid's a genius and the best.

And everybody's the best in this and that, and you just want your kid to be happy and to... get an array of experiences, and this computer class was one of those experiences, you thought you were doing right.

♪ ♪

Onorato: Most of the children started out explaining how Mr. Friedman would try to... test them, I think, in my opinion, as to whether they'd be receptive to some of his advances.

There'd be certain showings on the computer during computer class of certain material that was inappropriate for children.

Galasso: If you were going to be the first one abused on a particular day, he would pull up a chair and sit next to you.

Maybe it would start with his arm around your shoulder, or on your leg, and gradually move it up touching private parts.

Onorato: And then, over the course of time, we developed a situation where we found out that there was not only sexual touching of the genitals, but there were acts of sodomy, oral and anal sodomy, that took place during the course of the class.

Jarecki: So were the kids abused in the computer room in view of everyone else?

From what I saw in my sessions, none were raped out on the floor.

The kids were raped in Jesse's room or the bathroom.

Jarecki: Just to change the subject for a second, there were these sexual computer games that were discussed during the course of the case.

Computer Student: We'd basically do the games where there would be naked girls and everything, um, in the computer class.

But I remember, one time I slipped one of the games out, and I brought it home and everything, and I copied it, Arnold found out.

Because of that, I was raped by him and Jesse at the same time as punishment to that.

I never did it again. He made me format it.

I formatted it.

I had to bring my computer in and show him that I hadn't brought it home.

So he was absolutely positive, 100 percent, that it was not touched at all in any way, form, shape whatsoever.

Jarecki: And how did he know that you brought it home?

'Cause the-- he accounted for all the disks that were there.

And since he flipped through, he was like, "Who the fuck took this?

Tell me now or I'm gonna kill you all."

And he had a knife and he was waving a knife around.

I was like, "I did it. I did it. I did it."

Ron Georgalis: My general recollection of the classes, is basically a positive one, is a pleasant one.

The types of behaviors which were described, which were, well, just downright satanic in nature.

I mean, they make him sound like some kind of brutal sadist, where as, you know, I had just always thought of him as being kind of a, a nebbish.

Man (over phone): I think as someone who took the classes, it was just hard to picture even that going on because I did have a good experience.

And I didn't, you know, see anything, you know, remotely like, um... you know, like-- like child molestation or child abuse or any, child-anything going on.

What took place in Arnold's classes was pretty much just straight computer lessons.

I mean, as ordinary and as boring as you could possibly imagine it.

It was just generally a free-for-all, because it was-- everybody could-- could see what was-- what was going on.

And very often, they would participate in these-- these, sort of, mass games in-- in the classroom.

There was a game there that was called "Leapfrog."

And this one really got to me.

It was...

Uh, they would play leapfrog in the class there.

They actually had their clothes off.

And, uh...

We-- we associate leapfrog like you do when you were a kid.

One guy jumping over another guy, but the fact is, it means everybody's butt's up in the air, so to speak.

The very nature of these charges is so... absurd.

It-- it seems almost like some kind of grotesque fantasy.

Yeah, Leapfrog.

I remember about that.

Um, it's kind of like Twister, where we would have to sit down.

Our asses would be in the air.

Arnold and Jesse would leap from one person to another sticking their dick each in our ass.

Jarecki: But then I was confused, 'cause you said that, no kids were raped in the computer room.

The Leapfrog game, which was not molestation, was a Leapfrog game, was not considered molestation, was done outside.

But that was-- that was a-- that was a group game.

The actual molestation, one-on-one contact, happened in the bathroom.

The game happened out on the floor.

One of the things you-- you sit down there, and I know I've, you know, think about this, you know, how could this go on in-- in this home for so long, and-- and not being, you know, come out?

But you know, that's a-- that's a-- that's a--

That wasn't my province.

That wasn't what I had to decide or the judge had to decide.

You know, that's up to someone else to decide that.

But, uh, if I recall, you know, the children were pretty vivid in their recollections as to what Arnold and/or Jesse did to them.

And Judge Boklan, she's, you know, a pretty strong-willed judge.

And she's pretty unmovable when she makes her decision.

Boklan: There was never a doubt in my mind as to their guilt.

And remember, I'd been around for a while.

This wasn't, you know, the first sex case that I had ever seen.

In fact, my previous law secretary used to tease me that we were the pervert part.

And having been, uh, you know, head of the sex crimes unit myself, where, you know, I had young boys who were sodomized.

In fact, one who killed himself, you know, after the sentence of the abuser.

I mean, some horrible experiences.

So, for me to be so outraged, I mean, this was really, very, very bad what was going on there.

It was like someone's worst nightmare.

Who would even think of-- of doing these things?

And-- and to do them in a group and with so many witnesses.

The scenario as posted by the media and the police was so incredibly way out, it was hard for me to believe that it was true.

We now welcome, also in Los Angeles, Debbie Nathan.

Debbie is an investigative freelance journalist, who has been covering the McMartin and other abuse trials around the country.

All these parents are bizarro, huh? They're all whacked?

Well, it's not really fair, I don't think, to deal simply with these parents or with this particular case.

You have to understand that all over the country there's a hysteria.

And I don't think that it's a question with most of these kids of lying.

I think that they have been brainwashed, if you will.

I was one of the first writers for the mass media to look at those cases critically and question them.

So, as a result of that, having done a lot of that work, I got a lot of letters from people.

David: And my father wrote to Debbie and said, I don't know, said, "Help me."

And she has been the only person outside the family that said, "I believe you."

Nathan: In the Friedman case, the basic charges were completely implausible.

First of all, you'd have to believe that blood is coming out of these children's orifices, that they're screaming, that they're crying, that their clothes are soiled from semen and from blood.

And yet, their parents show up, sometimes they show up unannounced.

Everything looks fine.

Jarecki: Was there any physical evidence in the case that was relevant?

Or it was really-- was the case really strictly based on the statements of the kids?

It was more testimony.

It was-- there was a derth of physical evidence.

I-- I don't even recall whether there was any physical evidence that would have indicated one way or another that these events took place.

Nathan: I don't think that they're sitting around with any kind of diabolical or conspiratorial agenda to go out and falsely accuse Arnold Friedman or railroad Jesse Friedman.

But nobody's critiquing them.

Nobody's telling them that there's a right way and a wrong way to do this.

Nobody's saying that we've got a problem in this culture with hysteria around this issue.

And so they're really free to let their fantasies fly.

I think the most overwhelming thing was the enormous amount of child pornography.

You would just have to walk into the living room, and it'd be piled around the piano.

There were literally foot-high stacks of pornography in-- in plain view all around the house.

Nathan: But photos taken during the search showed nothing of the kind.

Onorato: But as far as the families were concerned, I don't wanna use the word that they were competitive with each other.

I don't know if it's to that extent.

You know, sometimes it'd be some idle conversation about, you know, another boy, you know, "He was sodomized five times, but my son was sodomized six times."

You know, as if that meant something in the overall scheme of things.

There's a whole community atmosphere that gets created in a mass abuse case like this, where the families are talking to each other, they're going to community meetings or they're calling on the phone all the time.

They're seeing each other in group therapy.

And there is definitely an element when a community defines itself as a victimized community, that if you're not victimized, you don't fit into that community.

The families that had their child molested, or allegedly molested, became very involved, and it took a greater part of their life at that point.

I appreciated their call in the beginning, telling me what happened.

And then, when I told them we'd looked into it, and my wife and I both felt that nothing happened to our son.

It got to be a little pushy situation where they told us that we were in denial, and it absolutely happened to our son.

(children laughing)

(answering machine beeps)

Man (on phone): Y ou fucking bitch, I'm gonna kill you!

When Jesse gets out of jail, he's a dead motherfucker.

When Arnold gets out of jail, he's a dead motherfucker.

Fuck you and fuck your whole family!

(phone line clicks)

Jarecki: Is there any one word or phrase that you could use to describe the experience overall?

Chaos. Hysteria.

It was really crazy.

Am I dreaming? Is this a nightmare?

The-- this can't be happening to my family.

My brother?

And a day doesn't go by that I don't think of it.

It destroyed my family.

Tore us apart.

I don't know.

I-- I can't say too much about it.

They-- they were-- we were a family.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

David (on video): Mommy believes you did it, and she believes you should go to jail, and she believes that she deserves everything that's left, and you shouldn't have any part of it.

You have to hire another lawyer?!

All this woman does is hire lawyers.

I honestly have to tell you, anything that she decides, I can't trust.

She-- she runs around, "Arnie, they don't trust me."

Well, we don't trust her.

We lived with her for three-- for two months while you were in jail, and we learned not to trust her.

Nathan: David had just gotten a video camera when this case broke, and so, he just started recording the family falling apart.

Jesse: And Mommy believes 'em and I don't.

I tell 'em to get lost.

And Mommy says, "You're right."

And I've lived with him for all my life, and look at all these horrible things he's done for me over 30 years, which amounts to nothing, except this.

At some point, David making the videotapes kind of springboarded to my thoughts about audiotape.

And I began to make audio recordings of these family arguments.

(Elaine speaking on audiotape)

(Jesse speaking on audiotape)

(Elaine speaking on audiotape)

Grandma: Shh! Don't scream!

(indistinct yelling)

Elaine: The family was screaming at each other.

And everyone wanted me to say he didn't do it.

Well, I wouldn't do that.

I said, "I don't know."

And I didn't-- They wanted me just to lie, you know, and say, he didn't do it whether I believed it or not.

And I was so angry at Arnold and what he'd done that I wouldn't do it.

And I said, "Well, I don't know," and I wanted just to tell the truth.

That is the truth. I didn't know.

My mother... abandoned him, pretty much.

She wouldn't talk to him, fought with him constantly, made him sleep on the sofa.

And after 33 years of marriage when your wife-- when you've been accused of a crime you didn't commit, you spend six weeks in jail for it, you're trying to build a defense, and your wife leaves you, essentially, my father fell apart.

David: You yelled and screamed about that you ruined her life.

She's brainwashed you. You didn't do anything.

The police have done it to you.

It's not your fault.

The police are do-- are-- are railroading you.

(Arnold speaking)

David: But it's not your fault!

Jesse: Mommy doesn't believe it though.

David: The police pick-- picked on you, and that's who they're going after.

It's not because you deserved it.

David: You're taking the blame, and you don't deserve the blame.

She's brainwashing you into thinking that it's your fault.

And it's not your fault.

She thinks he did it, and if he did it, then she thinks he's going to be convicted of it.

And if he's convicted of it, he's gonna go away.

Jesse: Yeah, but if-- let's say he goes away for 10 years, he's still gonna come out.

No, I'm talking about 50 years. I'm talking about 100 years.

Jesse: She doesn't think he's getting 50 years.

I don't think she thinks that he's gonna get 50 years.

Okay, so what is he gonna get, 20 years?

That's-- that's 50 years.

Jesse: What's the difference, well--

David: If he goes to a state institution on state charges, you know he's not coming back.

Onorato: In this case, there was consultations between both sides.

The district attorney's office, the families, the defense attorneys, as to what to do with Arnold Friedman.

We were trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in terms of having dinner, and paying the bills, but it was almost surreal.

I mean, just--

I don't think any of us had any notion of what was going on, or what we were doing or where any of this was leading.

Jesse: Sir, sir, would you like to comment on the situation?

Yes. I-- I think this is a kitchen.

David: I thought it was only gonna last a year, and that we would look back and laugh about how crazy we were and how we didn't know what we were doing, and just sort of... laugh.

(laughing) What do you want? My nose? My teeth?

(exclaims) David: Wait a minute, there it is.

There's your nose. Oh, that's great.

I feel like I'm being dissected here.

David: And here's Mommy and Daddy...

(Elaine sniffles)

Oh my God. a rare moment of affection.

Hmm? What's the matter?

(Elaine speaking)

Why? Why? Why not?

That's not all. You've gotten other things.

Lately, but not-- but not all. (Elaine speaks)

♪ You're the one ♪

♪ Who's stolen my heart, dear ♪ Elaine: I think I was the first woman that he ever really dated.

And he was very reluctant to get married.

I sort of said, "We've got to do this," you know.

I could be very...

So, he says, "Well, all right."

Big mistake. (laughing)

Howard: We were delighted.

She was effervescent, pretty.

They seemed to be very much in love.

They seemed to be very compatible.

It had been a long time in coming.

My mother-- (laughs)

"You're my oldest, get married. I want a grandchild," you know.

David: My mother is sexually ignorant.

As far as I'm concerned, she had sex--

I mean, everyone thinks their parents only had sex three times, you know, for each of their-- each of the siblings.

But with my mother, I think it was true.

Elaine: And it was like, you know, you read in a book "How do you have sex?"

And you start here and then you do step one, step two, step three.

And that's somewhat like what sex was like with Arnold.

Because I used to say to him, "It's called foreplay.

"It's supposed to be play.

It's supposed to be fun."

And he treated it like work.

Like this is what you're supposed to do when you do it, like washing the dishes, and...

If he was so much in the closet, and not living with her and not attracted, where was she for 30 years?

Why didn't she say, "Honey, you're not having sex with me.

I think I want a divorce." Where was she?

I don't think that's the case.

Either she's--

Either they're both crazy, which is a possibility or...

or he was perfectly normal.

Based, according to, you know, by her standards.

♪ You're the one for me ♪ It was a difficult marriage because of Elaine.

She had her problems, and it took a monumental amount of patience and love and caring to handle it.

It wasn't easy for him.

It wasn't easy for the kids.

But they were able to live with it.

She was the best mother she knew how.

She loved her kids and she loved her husband.

She wasn't the warmest, most outgoing human being in the world.

Elaine: When I had the first child, I was just ecstatic.

But... I didn't know how to do it.


I wasn't the most...

well-balanced person myself.

You know, we all have hang-ups, and...

That's my hang-up.

Good things can never happen to me, only bad.

That's all-- that's all the snapshots.

I know. This whole thing is all the snapshots.

David: Did they go-- and they looked through each one?

Arnold: They must have.

This is-- this is ancient film.

David: Holy shit.

Jesse: Dad, what is it? Oh my God, it's amazing.

How did you get this? This is great.

This is my-- my father took it. Who took it?

Jesse: Dad, what's that a film of?

This is a film of my sister.

♪ ♪

Howard: I had a sister.

She died a year before I was born.

Uh, my brother knew her when he was young, of course.

Uh, and she died of blood poisoning.

It was a horrible, terrible, sudden death.

Elaine: And it destroyed the family.

Arnold's parents divorced.

So Arnold's mother had these two boys, and they were really on welfare.

I don't know. It was--

They lived in a basement apartment.

Evidently, there was one bedroom, and the boys slept in the bedroom with the mother.

We shared, all three of us, not in the same bed, but we-- we all shared the same room.

Big rooms.

And rather than put a--

Apparently, they-- the living room was the living room, and there was the kitchen, and--

So we put all the beds in the one room.

And that she dated a lot of men, and would bring the man-- men into the apartment and they would... have sex in the bed while Arnold was there listening and...

And Arnold said that because he saw his mother in bed with a man, that when he was adolescent, he was experimenting, as all children do.

And he had sex with his brother... in bed or something like that.

And to me... that's not what all children do.

Arnold sent me this right around when he started writing me, and it's called "My Story," and it was written in 1988.

And I think it was his attempt to talk about the case, but also to talk about the case in the context of his life.

And it starts out, it says, "This story goes back 50 years to when I was a child."

He says, "When I reached adolescence, "I sought out partners for my emerging sexuality.

"My first partner, when I was 13, "was my eight-year-old brother.

"I had overt sexual relations with him over a period of a few years."

Howard: I know that my brother has said that he messed around with me when I was a kid.

And I don't remember any of it.

I don't remember anything.

I-I have nothing up here that... that has my yelling, or screaming or crying or trying to get away or unhappy or--

There's nothing there that...

Maybe someday, a door will open, but it better hurry up, 'cause I'm 65.

(chuckles) And at this point in time, I could care less.

Then he goes on and says, "My next partners were boys my own age

"all of which sexual relations probably being

"within norms for my age.

"However, the emotional impact of these relations was very pronounced, "and lasted through my adult life.

"A more normal situation, "as probably happened with my partners, "would have been to outgrow and forget these episodes.

"However, I literally fell in love with these boys, "and the relations were far more significant to me than they were to my partners."

And then he told me that, um... when he got to be an older teenager, like maybe in his late teens, he started worrying that he was still attracted to kids that were the same age as his brother had been when Arnold was 13.

And that really started bothering him.

And then after he had his own children he was worried.

He started worrying that maybe he would molest his own children.

And at that point, he went to therapy.

And the therapist told him, "No, don't worry. You've got everything under control."

♪ ♪

(singing along) ♪ The Jazzbo Mambo with the boogie beat ♪

♪ Is the newest dance on 52nd Street ♪

♪ All the cats come running from both near and far ♪

♪ To do the Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪ Jesse: Come on, Light Fingers!

Light Fingers, come on!

♪ ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪

(music ends)

You could see that this wasn't exactly Fred McMurray and My Three Sons, right?

It always struck us as being a very dysfunctional family, obviously.

And would have to-- you would have to wonder, wouldn't you, what kind of a family situation you would have that could produce... this could produce this kind of crime.

What might it be like to grow up in a household like this?

I don't know. I can't even imagine.

David: Today is September 14, 1975.

We just concluded a tour of Jungle Safari.

Seth: Jungle Habitat. Jungle Habitat in West Milford, New Jersey.

Here are my three brothers.

(giggling) Two brothers, you dummy! Two brothers.

All right, there are three children.

Elaine: What happened was, the three sons were like a gang, like, "This is our gang.

"And Mom-- Mom... she's not part of our gang."

David: And we have, of course...

Jesse: A pterodactyl! (David chuckles)

David: A pterodactyl.

A Jewish pterodactyl.

(caws) Schmuck! Schmuck! Schmuck!

David: The four of us got along so well.

We had a very similar kind of sense of humor.

You know, one guy would say something and then it would-- then the next person would add to the joke.

And my mother, who has no sense of humor, and she just didn't get that part of us, and she resented that.

Elaine: When this whole thing blew apart, the men got together and Arnold confided in them.

And me?

And I was a loyal wife.

People told me, "Oh, why don't you leave him? He's a horrible person.

Just walk out and leave him," and I didn't.

I went all over town. I raised money for bail.

I-I called every relative I knew.

I begged, and I did all this for him, right?

He was my husband, I loved him.

And no one said, "What do you want?" to me.

(Elaine speaking)

David: Okay.

Jesse: Okay. I think we can eat now.

David: So you're saying-- so what we have is, the people who we thought would testify and say that nothing happened--

David: And we are afraid to put them on the witness stand, even though we know that nothing happened.

We think they will say something happened.

Jerry Bernstein: The Friedmans suggested that we speak to various people who may have been present at the time.

And some of those people weren't alleged victims at all, and that the hope was that-- that-- one or more of these people would say, "This is just not true."

But that just didn't happen.

As far as I'm concerned, he's being--

Then nothing happened!

We begged him to tell us that something happened to explain how this whole mess could have happened.

That's the only way to explain how it could have happened, other than the fact, that the police are out of their minds.

He-- We begged him.

He told us nothing happened.

That's good enough for me. Nothing happened.

If my father had the ability to confess to me, yeah, he had done something one time, and that's how this whole crazy mess got started, it would make a lot more sense.

Not that I wanted that to be the case, but... you-- you have to find a way to explain the unexplainable.

David: Oh my gosh.

Grandma: Oh, look at that.

All: ♪ Happy birthday to you ♪

♪ Happy birthday to you ♪ Thank you.

Is that a real ice cream?


Elaine: That's what's so odd about it.

They had this idealized image of this father as being this saint-like person, this Santa Claus Messiah, you know.

And professionals in the field say that, oh, they have this idea that... children identify with the abusive parent.

When I was about a year or two, my parents separated.

And what did I do?

"My father is wonderful.

My mother is terrible."

The truth is my father was a rat!

Just like David's father.

My father walked out.

This is not wonderful.

This is being a rat.

My mother-- my mother was a nag.

Well, I mean, this is true, but look, she stayed with me.

She took care of me.

So, people...

(stammering) visions are distorted.

I never felt angry at my dad.

My dad had nothing to do with this.

Someone knocks on the door and accuses you of a crime you didn't commit... you gotta-- gotta attack... attack your attackers and do what you can.

And that's all it was.

It had nothing to do with--

There was nothing else that was involved at all.

We were talking about honoring and respecting.

Yeah, talk about honor and-- do you honor and respect your husband?

That's why I don't talk to you.

I said I did honor and respect my husband. Oh, okay.

But you don't like that answer. No, I don't like it.

I don't believe it. No.

Ask your father. Do I honor and respect you?

Do you object to my handling--

Do you have any objection in my relationship with you?

David: Do you like it when she calls you slime?

She did! Did you like it when she did?


Nathan: The other cases that I've written about, those families have been much stronger.

They've-- first of all, they've started from a monolithic feeling of innocence, which didn't exist in this family because of Arnold's pedophilia.

And they just buckled down, and everybody gets behind the defendant, the accused family member.

People quit their jobs, and, you know, people were all sitting around the kitchen table for the next three years with staplers and Xerox machines.

And they're working on, um, the defense.

And then, when, um, the defendant is convicted, they're working on the appeal.

And all family conflict is submerged.

Why don't you try once to be supportive of me?!

Well, I'll tell you why.

Because we all started at the beginning of this thing, and-- and-- and--

Well, let's start from right now!

Right now! All right. Let's start from right now.

We'll start brand-new!

Shh! We're all starting brand new.

(shushing) We have a decision making process on the table.

It's very clear. All the past mistakes, they were mistakes.

We're not gonna hold them against anyone.

Seth: Great. Now we're starting afresh. Okay!

Seth: Stop. Lower your voice, and talk nicely to your son.

All right. Now, we're gonna do it. Starting now.

Grandma: Seth, why didn't you call me?

(indistinct shouting)

(talking over each other)

♪ ♪

Bernstein: I think there was a recognition that Arnold's case was becoming increasingly hopeless because of the child pornography problem, because of other people coming out of the woodwork.

So, the strategy evolved to, "What can we do to save Jesse?"

Elaine: Jesse's lawyer, very eloquently said to us, "If there's a rowboat and it's sinking

"and the rowboat is tied to a rock, "you have to disconnect the rowboat from the rock, "and save the rowboat, even though the rock is sinking."

Meaning, you had to separate Arnold from Jesse.

And Arnold was going to plead, and Jesse would, in some way, benefit.

Jesse: I was sitting there, potentially going to trial, with no pornographic magazines admitted into evidence, without an adult pedophile as a co-defendant, and I understood that sort of reasoning.

But it makes no sense if my father pleads guilty and then I go to trial, and say, "I didn't do it," when all the jurors have already read in the newspaper that my father pled guilty.

And I did not want my father to plead guilty.

Banks: I arranged for Mr. Friedman and his family to get a jury room where they could sit and they could discuss these plea options.

And while I didn't go inside the room except to knock on the door and say where we're at in terms of what Mr. Friedman wanted to do, there was a lot of yelling and crying and screaming going on-- coming out of that room.

Elaine (on audio): God damn it!

When I screamed at Arnold, I screamed, "You must do it because it'll help Jesse.

Do it for Jesse."

And my brothers were just furious at this notion that my father would go to court and plead guilty.

And at one point, in all of the chaos, my father just started screaming.

And there's uncontrollable tears.

He picked up a chair. I remember, he threw a chair.

He was just screaming about how he wasn't gonna plead guilty.

He didn't do anything. He's not gonna plead guilty.

And he was furious at my mother, and he was just-- he was just freaking out.

And I remember very clearly, sitting down with my father in the corner.

My mother's over there, my brothers are over here.

I'm talking to my father privately.

And he asked me what he should do.

And I could've said to my father, "I want you just to walk out of here and go to trial and not plead guilty."

Instead, I remember very clearly saying to him I wanted him to make the decision.

And I remember feeling like a really young kid.

Kind of looking up to my dad and saying, "Dad, I-- you know, I want you to be my daddy."

And I would have been really, really proud of him if he had just stood up and said, "Elaine, I'm not pleading guilty.

We're going to trial."

But that's not what happened.

Newsman: Former New York City schoolteacher, Arnold Friedman had nothing to say when he left the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola.

But inside, he pleaded guilty to more than 40 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Man: Attempted sexual abuse in the first degree, an "E" felony, two counts.

And endangering the welfare of a child, a Class "A" misdemeanor, one count, in full satisfaction of this indictment? Yes.

My mother manipulated him.

My mother is crazy, and my mother has control over my father.

Some relationships have that, where the woman controls the man.

It's called being pussy whipped.

My father and my mother are not the only two people in the world who have that relationship.

My father and mother had that relationship.

My mother and the lawyers said take the plea, they took the plea.

Howard: I sat there in disbelief.

Is this my brother?

My brother?

This isn't my brother. He's not a monster.

He's a good, loving brother and husband and son and citizen and teacher.

This isn't happening.

This is a mistake.

Something as horrendous as child molestation, you have to live with yourself.

If you didn't do it, you don't plead guilty.

I never understood it.

(piano playing "Cheek to Cheek")

("Cheek to Cheek" continuing)

♪ ♪

(musical flourish)


Jesse: We have Elaine.

Hi. Jesse: We have Teddy, Arnie.

Number 4753206.

Don't. Please don't film me.


David, I told you, I don't want to be on tape.

Why are you so--

David: She wants no-- when we stop talking to her--

She doesn't want any-- She doesn't want any record of it all.

Elaine: Can you believe these kids that they want to persecute me?

David, if your mother doesn't want to be filmed, don't film her.

David: Okay. Come on!

Elaine: When it was all over, they said it was all my fault because I wanted them to do-- take a plea, and it had been arranged before.

Arnold wanted-- agreed to take a plea.

But they were very hurt.

I'm still here. (David laughs)

I may not be here very much longer, but I'm still here.


David: That's the spirit.

Newsman: The sentence: 10 to 30 years.

The crime: sodomizing young boys.

Defendant Arnold Friedman had pleaded guilty to sexually abusing more than a dozen youngsters.

But this does not end the Friedman case.

There are still numerous sodomy and sex abuse charges pending against Arnold's son, Jesse Friedman.

David: Mm-hmm.

I mean, we could try this case in the media.

Who's gonna-- who's gonna buy that I sodomized boys?

David: Yeah, I agree with you. I agree with you.

I really-- Well, I don't think we have-- Well, all I want to do...

We didn't make a deal with Arnold Friedman to spare his son.

So, his son is facing a multiple-count indictment, he's facing a considerable amount of jail time.

And now he's confronted with a situation where Long Island knows that his father admitted his guilt.

And there's a reasonable human expectation of some people that, you know, where there's smoke there's fire.

And if he did it, maybe his son did it.

He was-- we know he was in the same class and he was helping his father.

So, I think that was a difficult thing for Jesse to have to overcome.

♪ ♪

Peter Panaro: I always believed Jesse.

How could this possibly go on for four years?

Children repeatedly sodomized and sexually abused, with brutality if you believe the police.

And then their parents come to pick them up right after computer class and not one kid is crying, not one kid tells his mother or father what happened in class.

Not one kid says anything?

I find that so incredible that Jesse's story, that nothing happened, to me, was more believable, than the police version of these horrific acts.


Jesse and I went, we flew in August of 1988, all the way to Madison, Wisconsin, where we rented a car and drove 90 miles to some town that I couldn't possibly give you the name of, to a federal prison.

Who knew more about this case than Arnold Friedman?

He knew more about it than Jesse.

I had to wait 40 minutes, because Arnie was either playing tennis or golf.

I don't remember what it was. I was outraged.

It was a visiting room.

Jesse was out in the waiting room at this point.

And this man had this little boy in there, who was his son or his step-son, I don't know.

But the child was about four or five years old, and they were in the table right next to us.

And I was interviewing Arnie, and all of a sudden, he leaned over and asked me if I could ask the corrections officer, or whoever was in charge of the room, if we could get another table.

And I asked him why, and he said, "That little boy over there, bouncing on his father's lap, is getting me very excited."

It took me about 15 minutes to regain my composure.

I remember that like it was yesterday.

I was shocked.

'Cause even though I was involved in the case now for two months, and even though I had studied pedophilia, and I knew what these men did to little boys, I had never heard somebody actually say it.

And I was absolutely disgusted.

We did change our table, and I spoke to Arnie.

I interviewed him for a very long time.

He was telling me that the only reason he pled guilty and went to jail was because he wanted to save his son, Jesse.

He told me that he had-- that he was a pedophile.

He told me that he had... had activity with boys, but not in Great Neck.

He told me that he had a house in Wading River, a beach resort, and that the family enjoyed vacations there.

And... he told me that there were certain boys he took liberties with, and I don't want to go into it, while he was in that area.

Nathan: "In my early 40s, during the summer, "I did go quote, 'over the line,'

"and did have sexually arousing contact with two boys, "short of sodomy.

"One of the boys was the son of a close friend

"and I feared exposure and loss of this friendship.

"The boy might have told his parents, "but they said nothing.

So I assumed that he really had not told them."

That's-- it's one sentence!

What does that mean? What? Do you fucking know what that sentence means?

I don't even fucking know what that sentence means.

"I-- sexually aroused"? What the fuck is he talking about?

Maybe he put his arm around the kid.

Maybe he took him in the sailboat, and he found that sexually arousing.

Maybe he was leaning against a tree.

That's called sexually arousing contact, if you're sexually aroused while you lean against a tree.

I don't know what that means.

I don't know what that sentence means.

When Arnold was first arrested, he said, "I'm arrested because of this magazine.

"I sent one magazine in the mail, "and that's why I'm arrested.

"And it's nothing. It's just nothing.

It doesn't count. It doesn't matter. It's nothing."

And, you know, you-- you live as husband and wife, you share certain intimacies.

I said to him, "Tell me the truth.

What happened?" He says, "That's it. That's the truth."

So it came out that he had, in fact, molested a young man.

And we were sitting in the therapist's office, and he said, "Oh, I just molested two boys."

And I said, "Two? Two?"

I said, "I thought you told me only one."

"Well, you know," and he-- it didn't matter.

"It's nothing," you know.

And then I went berserk.

And I felt betrayed.

Yeah, so my father had the magazines.

And yes, my father admitted that he was a pedophile, and had these fantasies, and yes, my father admitted that he was no saint, and that there were times that he slipped.

But I was arrested, too.

And I'm not a child molester.

And I don't think it's appropriate, for me to have to answer for the sins of my father.

♪ ♪

David: This is what I walk around with.

It's just everyday.

It's just ridiculous.

All I think about is the case and my career.

And they're completely-- it's like oil and water.

With the case, it's a question of research.

My brother's been in the law library researching his current plan.

And I'm supposed to go out and make people laugh.

It's unbelievably difficult to deal with the case, and then go out and entertain people.

Hey! Hi, everyone!

Panaro: We carefully investigated this case for trial.

Really get into the case, examine, investigate, and try to build a defense.

While I was out on bail, I put all the charges into a database.

So that they could be sorted by complainant, by time period, by nature of charge.

For example, there was one complainant, ten-year-old boy.

Says he came to class in the spring of 1986.

And during this ten-week session, where he was only over at my house for an hour and a half once a week, he says that there were 31 instances of sexual contact.

That's three times a week, every single week, for ten straight weeks, and then the course ends.

In the fall, he re-enrolled for the advanced course and says that he was subjected to 41 more instances of anal and oral sodomy in the next ten-week session.

And nobody said anything.

Week after week, month after month, year after year, until after the police came knocking on doors and asking questions.

(dog barking)

♪ ♪

Father of Student: I went to the doorbell.

There were two Nassau County detectives, and they said they'd like to speak to our son with regard to the Friedman matter.

They came in and said, "We know something happened to him."

They didn't say "We believe."

They said, "We know."

And they wanted to speak to him.

Yeah, I remember, it was actually kind of a frightening experience, because I remember they were to my parents about this... within earshot of me.

I remember actually eavesdropping on what they said.

And what they said made my heart race.

Because they were saying that actually quite a few horrible things had happened to a lot of children, and I was one of them.

And, uh, quite honestly, I didn't believe it, and I was very confused and very angry about this.

Thinking, well, why are these people going around, telling my parents that all kinds of things have happened, when I have simply no recollection of anything.

Children want to please very often.

They want to give you the answers that you want.

Adults do that as well.

So you have to be very mindful of the fact, that when you're interviewing a child, if the child starts to answer questions, your responses should be somewhat in the framework of, "And then what happened?"

Or "What happened next?"

Or "What do you remember then?"

As opposed to, "He did this to you, didn't he?"

Or "She did this to you, didn't she?"

Uh, that's a very, very dangerous type of interview process to use.

If you talk to a lot of children, you don't give them an option, really.

You just-- you be pretty honest with them.

You have to tell them pretty honestly that, "We know you went to Mr. Friedman's class.

We know how many times you've been to the class."

We-- we-- you know, we go through the whole routine.

"We know that there was a good chance

"that he touched you, or Jesse touched you, "or somebody in that family touched you in a-- in a very inappropriate way."

And I listened to them talking to him, and... it got to a point where it wasn't asking him what happened.

It was more of them telling him what happened.

And that... when they didn't like what he said, that they kept repeating to him that they know what happened, and that he should tell.

Man: I believe that I remember saying that I saw Jesse like chase after a kid or hit a kid or something like that.

And that's what I testified to-- to the grand jury.

And I remember saying that because I felt-- and I feel like when I said that, that ended the questioning.

And so that might have meant that, you could infer maybe that they were asking me a lot of questions.

Trying to get something, and I just... wanted to give them something.

I mean, I don't want to be-- say I'm a perjurer or anything.

But I did not observe anything like that happening.

Man 2 (on phone): What I do remember is the detectives putting on me a lot of pressure, to speak up.

And at some point, I-- I kind of broke down. I started crying.

And when I started to tell them things, I was telling myself that it's not true.

I was telling myself "Just say this to them in order to get them off your back."

Nathan: I came across a document regarding a group of children from the Friedman case who were in therapy, and it stated that many of them, had absolutely no recollection of the abuse.

And there was some discussion about whether hypnosis would be a good idea now.

Exactly what you're not supposed to do.

It was the kind of therapy that had a really good chance of messing up kids' memories, and implanting false memories.

Man: My parents put me in therapy right away.

They put me in hypnosis and tried to recall facts that I had buried.

And that's how I first came out, started talking about it.

Just through being hypnotized and everything.

I recalled things that I would bury.

I was able to talk about them.

Jarecki: For example, what would be something that you recall?

The actual first time I actually... recalled that I was actually molested.

Wow, I was actually molested.

I can deal with it now.

That was the first time.

Jarecki: And you recalled through hypnosis the first episode?


So tell me about that, if you remember.

I don't remember much about it.

It was just-- it was so long ago.

I just remember that...

I went through hypnosis, came out, and it was in my mind.

Newsman: Nineteen-year-old Jesse Friedman was arraigned on more than 198 additional counts of child sexual abuse.

This brings the total number of sexual abuse charges to 245.

Nathan: Jesse was grossly overcharged.

And you're basically terrorizing the defendant.

You're telling the defendant, "Look, if you plead guilty, "you know, we'll give you a good deal.

"And on, you know, two charges.

"But if you insist on going to trial, "we're gonna put 1,003 charges on you.

"And if you're convicted of all those charges, you're gonna rot in jail the rest of your life."

Elaine: I was told that if he went to trial, the judge would give three consecutive sentences.

Instead of concurrent, the sentencing would be consecutive.

I says, "Oh my God."

She just kept telling me over and over.

"The only thing to do is to plead guilty, "and get the best deal you can.

"You can't go to trial.

"It doesn't matter if you're guilty or innocent, "you can't go to trial, "because if you go to trial, you're gonna go to prison for the rest of your life."

I said, "But Ma, I didn't do it!"

She said, "That doesn't matter. You have to plead guilty."

Panaro: You have to understand this is a 19-year-old kid, and he is now facing the most heinous charge known to man.

And everyone in the world, slowly but surely, was turning against him.

I don't care about my parents.

I wish it was just my brothers.


Oh, fuck.

I don't care about my mother, that's for sure.

If my brothers were okay, then my mother could go to fucking hell.

My father is not gonna survive if my brother gets incarcerated.


So, when the guilty verdict comes in on Jesse, my father's gonna kill himself.

Jesse's gonna go to jail for the rest of his life.

Seth is gonna move west.

(whispers) Fuck. Fuck.

Panaro: I received a telephone call from Jesse asking to see me.

And Jesse told me that he wanted to plead guilty.

In 1988, there was no way that a jury in Nassau County, who had been reading the newspaper headlines in Newsday for over a year, those people were never going to listen to anything the defense had to say.

And I was absolutely terrified of going to prison for 100 years.

Jesse had always maintained his innocence.

I don't work out deals for people who are innocent.

And my first reaction was, "I'm not gonna do it.

You're not guilty, you're not pleading guilty."

And at that point, he told me that

"I have something to tell you."

And with tears rolling down his eyes, literally, he told me that he was abused by his father growing up.

And that while he never enjoyed the sexual part of that, he did enjoy the attention his father gave him and being with his father.

And that... not everything he had said about nothing happened was true.

Peter Panaro was personally convinced that my father had sexually abused me.

And nothing I could say could dissuade Peter from this notion.

Panaro: Jesse felt that if Judge Boklan knew that he also was a victim of his father, that she might consider the plea negotiations in a more favorable way.

Jesse: He came up with this strategy!

It was Peter Panaro's fictionalized story that he fed to me.

And said, "If you say this, it's gonna look good for you."

I told him I wouldn't do it.

I told him, "Jesse, when you plead guilty in open court, "you're gonna have to admit

"to this type of anal sodomy, 14 times.

"And I'm not gonna let you do that, unless you can admit it."

He looked me right in the eye, always liked to call me by my name before he made a statement, and said, "Peter, I can admit it."

The only concern that Peter Panaro had was that ethically, as a lawyer, he couldn't let his client go into court, and say something happened that he knew his client had told him was a lie.

♪ ♪

The private investigator wasn't coming up with anything helpful.

There was not gonna be any defense witnesses.

There wasn't any money to hire experts.

Mom was insistent upon there not being a trial.

Peter Panaro wasn't believing me, no matter how many times I told him nothing happened.

I just ran out of options.

♪ ♪

Elaine: Jesse was a very good baby.

I remember when we brought him home from the hospital, and Arnie looked at that baby, and he said, "That child is marvelous.

He's wonderful."

And he was so thrilled.

And David was the big brother, and he used to take care of Jesse.

We used to let David watch him, and he was very protective of his baby brother.

It's amazing.

Six months from now--

Well, I already don't have a father or a mother.

Six months from now, I'm not gonna have my brother.

If I ever watch this, I don't know when it's gonna be.

I don't know where I'm gonna be. (sobs)

I don't know what's gonna happen to my family.

I'm so scared. (cries)

I don't wanna have to spend the next eight hours screaming with my sons and fighting with them.

I want them out of this house tomorrow morning.

I don't give a shit! I want you out of this house by tomorrow morning.

David: Well, we are here for Jesse.

Jesse: What are you all talking about here?

David: Can't you put your anger aside for one minute?

I cannot put my anger aside about you.

You have been nothing but hateful, hostile and angry ever since this began!

David: Okay, Jess, we're on.

Ta-da. I feel like shit.

David: What's today's date?

Today's the day before I went to jail.

David: Went to jail?

I'm going to jail. 'Cause we're watching it?

We're watching this after I'm already out of jail.

After four-- four-and-a-half years, 'cause the case gets reopened.

At this point in time, my life is as good as over.

It is terminated at this point only to resume at a later date.

This one'll go. This one'll-- this will shatter.

David: The night before Jesse's plea, we stayed up all night.

Maybe I shot the videotape, so that I wouldn't have to remember it myself.

It's a possibility.

'Cause I don't really remember it outside of the tape.

Like when your parents take pictures of you, do you remember the being there, or do you remember just the photograph hanging on the wall?

Even if I'm facing the worst scenario possible tomorrow, and for every day following it, I have to think tonight that it's not gonna be that bad.

Goodness knows, I don't want to look like my father.

Goodness knows, I want to separate myself from Arnold Friedman as much as possible.

And I'm not throwing chairs tomorrow.

Seth: Good.

And if this trial were postponed for three years, in three years, I would win.

But here, today, at this point, trying to start a trial in two weeks, I would lose this trial.

We feel this way and that is what would happen.

♪ Hit me from behind ♪

♪ Yes, I'm gone to Carolina ♪

♪ In my mind ♪

David: So, what are you thinking, Jess?

Uh... (sniffles)

I'm not.

David: You're-- you're-- you're avoiding?


Well, I gotta eat something.

I'm proud to say I've managed to leave barely any gas in the car.

David: Just our luck, we'll be trapped at the house.

(laughs) We'll run out of gas at the house.

Nope. David: Are you a child molester, Jess?

Never touched a kid. Did you ever do ti?

Did you do what they said you did?

I never touched a kid.

I never saw my father touch a kid. David: Good.

Seth: Yeah, but still, you must've done it.

(laughing) David: Yeah, but surely something has happened.

It must-- something. Seth: 'Cause the police say it's true.

Seth: Okay, you never touched a kid, right?

If something happened, it didn't happen while I was there.

And it was a minimal incident, because the kid didn't say anything about it.

Seth: But the police, how could they be lying?

Shut up, Seth. (laughs)

The children, the 14 children, in this case are clearly victims.

No one could ever argue that.

The real culprit here is Arnold Friedman.

The man is a monster!

He abused him and he molested him.

This can't be overlooked.

I can't believe we live in such a cold society, that no one can look at this man, and understand that.

My father raised me confused about what was right and what was wrong.

And I realize now how terribly wrong it all was.

I-I wish I could have done something to stop it sooner.

(sniffles) I wish there was something I could have done.

I'm very-- I'm--


I'm so sorry it happened.

Panaro: Judge Boklan sternly looked down and said that she recommended to the parole board that he serve the maximum period of time permitted by law.

A statement which, I felt, was harsh and unnecessary to a 19-year-old under these circumstances.

Galasso: Jesse was a victim.

There's no question. Jesse was a victim.

But even when he was caught, Jesse never expressed any kind of sympathy for these kids.

And as a matter of fact, on the day that the plea was taken, Jesse was dancing and singing on the courthouse steps while being videotaped by his two brothers.

My brain hurts!

It'll have to come out!

(David laughs) My brain!

But I'm using it!

David (laughing): "But I'm using it."

Nurse! Nurse!

Onorato: They were taking pictures.

I remember someone brought that to my attention.

We looked out the window. 'Cause I'm saying--

I was saying to myself, "This is very bizarre."

I-I mean he's about to go to jail for the next six to 18 years, and he's out on the courtroom steps in some sort of theatrical performance.

That is so funny when they're all...

David: I think it was about distracting ourselves.

Not necessarily distracting Jesse.

Jesse was...

I think he was the most comfortable about the whole situation.

He-- you know...

I don't know how he has always been the most comfortable about it, but he has.

Okay, right about now, we've been waiting for a good two hours or so now, because evidently the parents stormed Dennis Dillon's office this morning when they-- when they received the news last night that I was to plead guilty.

And they were not aware of this fact.

They were not even aware that negotiations were underway, and they did not want me to have less than 10 to 30.

And there are a lot of people probably making all sorts of angry statements at this point in time.

I can't imagine what they're discussing.

The meeting must have-- just like our family.

David: Shit, well, there really wasn't much of them anyway.

But that means the meeting's over.

Jesse: That means the meeting's over.

David: Go ask them, Jess.

Jesse: You hold it. I'm not holding it.

(indistinct chatter)

David: Should I do it, Jess?

Man: Heads up!

(man shouting)

(indistinct shouting)

(David speaking)

David: Oh my God! I don't believe this.

Oh my God!

(indistinct shouting)

David: Get them away from me. He's an animal!

Oh my God! I don't believe it!

(shouting continues)

Wow. Ooh!

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(birds chirping)

(horns honking)

Elaine: After Jesse went to jail, I know my friends said to me, "Don't you feel like terrible being alone in such a big house?"

I said, "No, I feel calm."

That's when I really started becoming a person and started to live.

Elaine divorced him while he was in prison.

He settled into life there, and he-- you can't say it was good in prison, but it was as good as it could get for him.

But of course, the torment continued and got worse because of Jesse.

My brother never got over the guilt.

He had talked about taking his life because he had this insurance policy he had taken out.

I think it was $250,000, a quarter of a million, and Jesse was the beneficiary.

He said, "This is the only thing I have left to give Jesse.

"So he has money when he gets out, "and he can make some kind of life for himself, 'cause I've screwed it up otherwise for him."

By that time, that clause in the insurance policy where suicide was payable, had come into effect.

Nathan: And this is the coroner's report.

It describes the cause of death as doxepin intoxication.

Which basically means that Arnold took a massive overdose of antidepressants.

I took a deep breath and I said, "It's over, David.

He's out of his misery. It's over."

I thought it was a blessing, 'cause he was...

The guilt he was carrying.

He was so unhappy.

It was-- he was-- he was out of his misery.

The rest of the family wasn't, but he was.

I found it a blessing.

♪ Let me entertain you ♪

♪ Let me make you smile ♪ David: It's unbelievably difficult.

I have to read these horrible letters about my brother being almost killed in prison.

My friends call me, I'm-- I'm crying.

"Why are you crying?" I can't tell them.

None of the people that do what I do know about this story.

Just the intimation of something like this can ruin someone's career.

And I'm always afraid that's gonna happen.

♪ So let me entertain you ♪

♪ And we'll have a real ♪

♪ Good time ♪

Howard: I feel I will never really know the truth.

But the one truthful thing, or the honest thing that we know, Howard loved his brother.

(growls) Howard loved his family.

Loves his family.


And I believed him when he said he didn't do those terrible things.

I believed him.

Arnold had a need to confess.

And he had a need to go to jail.

And the sad thing is that he took his son with him.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

What's the term about families? Dysfunctional?

(sighs deeply)

Numero uno. (laughs)

♪ ♪

David: It was not the way it was supposed to end.

People were supposed to realize that all of this was nonsense, and we'd try to go back to living our normal lives.

Hey! Hi, everyone!

♪ ♪

I would have to stare at Arnold across the dinner table, when it was just the two of us.

There was really nothing between us, except these children that we yelled at.

♪ ♪

Elaine: We named the cottage "Peaceful Pond Cottage" because we were looking for a place of healing and peace.

Jesse: Any comment on your personal life, sir?

Um, it's personal.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

David: Oh my God. Jesse: Hey.


How you doing? (laughing)

Oh my God! Oh!

Holy shit.

Ay-yi-yi. Finally.

♪ ♪

(knocking on door)

Is that them? Peter: That could be he.

Oh, shit.

Oh my God!


Jesse: Room service.

Oh, God.

You-- you order a son? You looking for me?

Oh, baby.



Hi. Look at me, look.

♪ ♪

♪ The Jazzbo Mambo with the boogie beat ♪

♪ Is the newest dance on 52nd Street ♪

♪ All the cats come running from both near and far ♪

♪ To do the Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪

♪ Oh, what a sight you'll see on 52nd Street ♪

♪ And you'll boogie boogie to the mambo beat ♪

♪ Any time of night, and baby, chances are ♪

♪ They're doing Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪

♪ Oh, what a combination it is ♪

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♪ The latest dance creation it is ♪

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♪ Hurry down, my friends, to 52nd Street ♪

♪ Where the overhead's tight but the price is sweet ♪

♪ Put in your order for domestic caviar ♪

♪ And do the Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ Oh, what a combination it is ♪

♪ Oh, what a real sensation it is ♪

♪ The latest dance creation it is ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo, eight to the bar, oh ♪

♪ Hurry down, my friends, to 52nd Street ♪

♪ Where the overhead's tight, but the price is sweet ♪

♪ Put in your order for domestic caviar ♪

♪ And do the Jazzbo Mambo eight to the bar ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo ♪

♪ Jazzbo Mambo ♪

♪ Eight to the bar ♪