LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A prosecutor of the men known as the “Central Park Five” said a new Netflix Inc series about their rape conviction and exoneration defames her with false information about how the case unfolded and her role in it.
Linda Fairstein, who has come under renewed scrutiny since the debut of “When They See Us” on May 31, wrote in an op-ed published on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal that the dramatic series is “so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication.”
In the headlines of the op-ed, Fairstein called the series “Netflix’s false story” and said the series “defames me.”
A Netflix spokeswoman said the company had no comment on Fairstein’s remarks.
The four-part series was written and directed by Ava DuVernay, director of movies “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Selma,” who responded to Fairstein’s op-ed on Twitter, writing “Expected and typical. Onward.”
Fairstein, who is portrayed by actress Felicity Huffman, said DuVernay had written “an utterly false narrative involving an evil mastermind (me) and the falsely accused (the five.)”
The five men – Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise – were 14 to 16 years old at the time of the 1989 rape and confessed after lengthy police interrogations. The victim was white and the defendants all black or Hispanic.
Each soon recanted, insisting they had admitted to the crime under coercion from police officers. But they all were convicted and served prison terms of six to 13 years.
A judge vacated their convictions in 2002 after another man confessed to the crime and DNA tests confirmed his guilt.
Fairstein led the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office from 1976 until 2002 and then became a best-selling crime novelist.
After criticism of her mounted on social media last week, Fairstein and her publisher Dutton said they had decided to “terminate their relationship.” Fairstein also has stepped down from various nonprofit boards, according to media reports.
Asked about Fairstein at a Netflix event on Sunday, DuVernay said, “It’s important that people be held accountable.”
But the director added 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. She is part of a system that is not broken, it was built to be this way. It was built to oppress.”
Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Howard Goller