Capturing the Friedmans (2003) - full transcript

In the late 1980's, the Friedmans - father and respected computer and music teacher Arnold Friedman, mother and housewife Elaine Friedman, and their three grown sons, David Friedman, Seth Friedman and Jesse Friedman - of Great Neck, Long Island, are seemingly your typical middle class American family. They all admit that the marriage was by no means close to being harmonious - Arnold and Elaine eventually got divorced - but the sons talk of their father, while also not being always there for them, as being a good man. This façade of respectability masks the fact that Arnold was buying and distributing child pornography. Following a sting operation to confirm this fact, the authorities began to investigate Arnold for sexual abuse of the minor-aged male students of his computer classes, which he held in the basement of the family home. Based on interviews with the students, not only was Arnold charged with and ultimately convicted of multiple counts of sodomy and sexual abuse of these boys but so was eighteen year old Jesse, who was mentioned by many as the aggressor of the two in the acts. Arnold admitted that he is a pedophile, but that he did not abuse the boys in his class as charged and convicted. The trial process brought out the dysfunction that previously existed within the family. But the issue of Arnold and Jesse's guilt of these acts is hotly debated among the family, among the authorities, among the media and among the students of the computer classes.

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.

♪ ♪

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 ♪

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,


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.

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.

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.

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,

By this time,

just about every news organization you could name

had arrived on the scene.

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

♪ ♪

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.

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.

♪ ♪

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.

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.

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,


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."

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)

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,

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)

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.

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.

And here's Mommy and Daddy...

(Elaine sniffles)

Oh my God. a rare moment of affection.

What's the matter?

(Elaine speaking)

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.

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.

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 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.

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?

They must have.

This is--
this is ancient film.

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?

Dad, what's that a film of?

This is a film of my sister.

♪ ♪

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.

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 ♪

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.

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.

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."

And we have, of course...

Jesse: A pterodactyl!
(David chuckles)

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)


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,


you-- you have to find a way
to explain the unexplainable.

Oh my gosh.

Oh, look at that.

♪ 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...

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!

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.

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?

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.

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)


We have Elaine.

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!

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.


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

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.

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

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.

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.

♪ ♪

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.

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.

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!

Okay, Jess, we're on.

Ta-da. I feel like shit.

What's today's date?

Today's the day
before I went to jail.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

That means the meeting's over.

Go ask them, Jess.

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

(indistinct chatter)

Should I do it, Jess?

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)

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 ♪

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.

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.

♪ ♪

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?

Oh my God!

Holy shit.


♪ ♪

(knocking on door)

Is that them?
Peter: That could be he.

Oh, shit.

Oh my God!


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 ♪

♪ 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 ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ 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 ♪