People on social media have amplified their ongoing criticism of former prosecutor Linda Fairstein after her op-ed defending the handling of the so-called Central Park Five case was published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Franklin Leonard, the founder of the Black List, a database and online community that contains thousands of screenplays, lambasted Fairstein on Twitter for her apparent attempts to delegitimize the recent portrayal of the lives of the men who were known as the Central Park Five: Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray.
The stories of the five young men, who were wrongfully convicted in a brutal 1989 rape in New York City’s Central Park, were portrayed in Ava DuVernay’s scripted Netflix series, “When They See Us.”
“It appears we’ve come to the part of the cycle where folks wrongly accuse a brilliant bit of filmmaking by @ava of being ‘so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication.’ (Fairstein’s words. Spoiler: Nope.),” Leonard tweeted on Monday, quoting Fairstein’s op-ed.
DuVernay responded to Leonard’s tweet, writing, “Expected and typical. Onward...”
Leonard also shared a series of tweets citing data and a previous Guardian report that identified DuVernay’s 2014 “Selma,” which told the story of Martin Luther King Jr., as an accurate depiction of events after criticisms arose.
Fairstein, 72, has faced renewed backlash this month for her role in overseeing the prosecutions of the five black and Latino men, who as teenagers were all convicted of numerous crimes related to the 1989 assault of Trisha Meili in New York City’s Central Park.
Since the May 31 release of the Netflix series, Fairstein, who writes mystery novels, has resigned from a number of boards, and she was dropped from her publisher, Dutton, a division of Penguin Random House.
Deadline reported on Tuesday that Fairstein’s Hollywood literary agency ICM Partners has also severed ties with her. ICM Partners did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.
The former prosecutor was the chief Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor at the time the teens, ages 14 to 16, were interrogated. The five later said they were coerced into giving false confessions through police scare tactics. They each served time behind bars before their convictions were vacated in 2002, after serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to the crime and DNA evidence linked him to it.
Fairstein, who has repeatedly defended her office’s handling of the prosecution over the years, accused “When They See Us” of portraying her as ”an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot,” of which she said, “None of this is true.”
She charged that some of the timelines and dialogue in the limited series were inaccurate:
“In the first episode, the film portrays me at the precinct station house before dawn on April 20, the day after the attacks, unethically engineering the police investigation and making racist remarks,” she wrote. “In reality, I didn’t arrive until 8 p.m., 22 hours after the police investigation began, did not run the investigation, and never made any of the comments the screenwriter attributes to me.”
But, according to The New York Times, some of Fairstein’s claims in the op-ed are inconsistent with past records. For example, Fairstein described scenes in the series showing the teenagers “held without food, deprived of their parents’ company” during interrogations as “egregious falsehoods,” saying those issues weren’t brought up in pretrial hearings.
As the Times noted, the teenagers did raise some of those concerns during a pretrial hearing, according to court documents.
Fairstein agreed in her op-ed that rape-related charges against the five should have been vacated due to a DNA match and Reyes’ confession (no physical evidence connected the boys to the crime), but insisted that they were rightly found guilty of other alleged crimes that occurred in Central Park that night, including robbery and assault. But those charges have also been disputed, the Times reported.
In 2014, the five men were granted a $41 million settlement with New York City over their arrests and imprisonment.
People on Twitter condemned Fairstein for attacking the five men and DuVernay in her article: