Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein has sued Netflix and film director Ava DuVernay claiming the film production, "When They See Us," about the Central Park Five case, wrongly showed her as a “racist, unethical villain” who was key in the convictions of the five black and Latino teens involved.
The suit names Netflix and the production's Emmy-nominated director DuVernay.
Netflix released "When They See Us" on May 31, 2019. Fairstein is a Southwest Florida resident filed the lawsuit in Fort Myers.
Fairstein could not be reached for comment, but Andrew Miltenberg, her attorney, provided a statement.
“Most glaringly, the film series falsely portrays Ms. Fairstein as in charge of the investigation and prosecution of the case against The Five, including the development of the prosecution’s theory of the case. In truth, and as detailed in the lawsuit, Ms. Fairstein was responsible for neither aspect of the case.
"Ms. Fairstein’s legal action is not intended to re-litigate the guilt or innocence of The Five in the attacks on Ms. Meili or the other victims assaulted in Central Park that night. In fact, Ms. Fairstein previously stated that she agreed with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office decision to vacate the convictions of The Five in regard to the attack on Ms. Meili, in light of the newly discovered evidence in the 2002 confession of Matias Reyes.
"Ms. Fairstein’s reputation and career — in the law and in literature — have been irreparably damaged by the Defendants’ actions. We believe strongly in the merits of this litigation and intend to pursue the case vigorously.”
Fallout from the Netflix show has led to Fairstein being dropped by her book publisher, Dutton, and she has resigned from at least two nonprofit boards as backlash intensified following the release of the series.
The series addresses the arrests, trials and convictions of five young men
of color who were accused of beating and raping a female jogger, in addition to rioting and attacking seven other victims, in New York City’s Central Park in April 1989.
The convictions were later vacated based on the confession of, and DNA evidence
from, an individual who came forward in 2002. The men sued New York City, New York
District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, three prosecutors, including Fairstein and scores of NYPD officers and detectives.
Fairstein was the head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit in April 1989, but did not personally prosecute the case.
Netflix officials have said they would fight the suit and the producer and others connected to the production have declined comment.
Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Ex-prosecutor Linda Fairstein sues Netflix over Central Park 5 series