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Former Manhattan Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Is Suing Netflix and Film Director Ava DuVernay

Gettyimages | Charley Gallay
By Shadress Denise

Director Ava Duvernay and streaming conglomerate Netflix is gearing up for a fight. Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein is suing the director and streaming platform over her portrayal in the “When They See Us” miniseries played by Felicity Huffman about the Central Park Five case.

The series was a reenactment of the 1989 case which sent five black and Latino teenagers to prison for a crime they were later absolved of committing.

During the time, Fairstein, 72, was the head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office sex crimes unit and lead prosecutor on the case many later scrutinized her and her team for.

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Gettyimages | Presley Ann

In 1989, the city of New York was in an uproar after a 28-year-old, white woman was brutally raped and beaten in Central Park while jogging. Immediately, there was a public outcry, making several black and brown teenagers became targets based on an assumption that later proved to be untrue.

After spending close to a decade in prison, the convictions were vacated in 2002, and the Central Park five received a $41 million settlement from the city more than a decade later.

Gettyimages | Charley Gallay

The movie/documentary debuted on Netflix in May 2019. Briefly after, Fairstein began to receive death threats, harassed on social media, lost book deals and received countless calls to the institution she was teaching at, calling for her termination.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Fairstein is suing both Netflix and Duvernay for multiple counts of defamation, stating she was wrongfully depicted as a “racist and unethical villain” in the Emmy-winning movie regarding her treatment and illegal interrogation methods towards the five teenagers.

Gettyimages | Handout

Like in the movie, four of the five men confessed to the crime, but later retracted their confessions, saying they were coerced. All five were found guilty, but their convictions were vacated after an imprisoned rapist and murderer confessed to the crime. DNA evidence collected at the time was from the convicted rapist which confirmed his confession.

However, Fairstein and many others still believed the five teenagers played a role in the heinous crime despite no evidence of them even being near it was ever found.

Gettyimages | JC Olivera

“‘When They See Us’ portrays Ms. Fairstein in a false and defamatory manner in nearly every scene in the three episodes in which she appears,” the complaint said.

The 119-page complaint was filed in U.S. district court in Florida, where Fairstein is a resident, according to the document. The suit also named “When They See Us” co-writer and producer Attica Locke as a defendant.

“In the film series, which defendants have marketed and promoted as a true story, defendants depict Ms. Fairstein — using her true name — as a racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.”

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