Linda Fairstein Pens A Scathing Op-Ed That We Did Not Need In Response To Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us”
When They See Us, the most recent work from filmmaker Ava DuVernay, details the story of the Central Park 5, a group of men who will forever be linked to a story of injustice, depicted in the stirring Netflix project which premiered on May 31.
On Monday, Linda Fairstein, the former prosecutor who helped investigate the rape of Central Park jogger Trisha Meili, penned an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. Titled, “Netflix’s False Story Of The Central Park 5,” Fairstein claims DuVernay worked overtime to depict her as a bigoted, ill-driven, white feminist prosecutor who would stop at nothing to synch Meili’s brutal rape to the legacy of the Central Park 5—Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson. Fairstein says that she was defamed in the movie and distances herself from the character Felicity Huffman portrayed in the film.
“Reporters and filmmakers have explored this story countless times from numerous perspectives, almost always focusing on five attackers and one female jogger. But each has missed the larger picture of that terrible night: a riot in the dark that resulted in the apprehension of more than 15 teenagers who set upon multiple victims,” Fairstein writes.
While the service of the press remains tied to sharing “both sides” and staying objective, it is telling that Fairstein was given the opportunity to share her story on such a large platform, in the name of damning DuVernay and the exonerated. In 2002, their cases were vacated after Matias Reyes confessed to raping Meili.
“That a sociopath named Matias Reyes confessed in 2002 to the rape of Ms. Meili, and that the district attorney consequently vacated the charges against the five after they had served their sentences, has led some of these reporters and filmmakers to assume the prosecution had no basis on which to charge the five suspects in 1989. So it is with filmmaker Ava DuVernay in the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us,” a series so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication,” she continues.
One of the most damning parts of Fairstein’s piece is where she states that while in jail, Wise admitted to holding down the jogger and feeling her breasts, while also claiming Salaam testified that he was wielding a metal pipe the night of the attack. Fairstein says that if DuVernay would have done her due diligence she would have discovered that the men were charged as accomplices, and remains vigilant that Reyes did not act alone.
As the men served their prison sentences (some between 6 to 14 years), lost touch with family and friends, and forged new paths to distance themselves from a crime they did not commit, Fairstein catapulted to become a revered prosecutor, professor, and best-selling crime fiction author. However, due to a call of action since the movie’s premiere, Fairstein has lost some of the privileges, awards and access she sought so hard to maintain.
Fairstein seeks only to vindicate herself for pride comes before the fall. While numerous outlines, tick-tocks and a previous 2012 documentary revealed there is absolutely no physical way the five men could have been involved in the rape of Trisha Meili due to distance and time. And while they admitted to the crime via written confession and video tape after hours of being held, Fairstein absolves herself from taking any responsibility in the way the investigation was handled.
Fairstein leaves out one significant part of the story, the fact that DuVernay and producers reached out to her to participate in the discovery portion of the film, but Fairstein refused, saying she did not want to participate if the five men were involved. DuVernay herself also stated that Fairstein wanted access and control over the script, to which DuVernay rightfully refused.
The space used for Fairstein would have been better served if she owned up to her participation in stealing the lives and youth from five men of color from Harlem.