Linda Fairstein just couldn’t let lying dogs lie.

The once head of Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit in the botched 1989 Central Park jogger case, who was portrayed in Ava Duvernay’s award-winning Netflix docuseries, When They See Us, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday claiming that she was publicly defamed, in court documents obtained by ESSENCE.

In the suit against Netflix, DuVernay and co-writer Attica Locke, Fairstein claims that she was wrongfully portrayed as the racist mastermind behind the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana  and Kevin Richardson—once known as the Central Park Five, and now referred to as the Exonerated Five. No thanks to Fairstein, these men were later absolved of the brutal assault and rape of a 28-year-old female jogger in New York City’s Central Park.

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“Throughout the film series, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed as making statements that she never said, taking actions that she did not take—many of them racist and unethical, if not unlawful—in places that she never was on the days and times depicted,” the suit states. 

In the suit, she further denies interrogating unaccompanied minors, suppressing DNA evidence, using derogatory terms against the Black boys, directing NYPD detectives to coerce confessions, and manipulating the timeline of the jogger’s rape.

In a statement to ESSENCE, a Netflix spokesperson completely dismissed Fairstein’s lawsuit.

Author Linda Fairstein appears on NBC News’ “Today” show on July 31, 2013 — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

“Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit,” the statement read. “We intend to vigorously defend When They See Us–and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series.”

The latest action by Farstein, who is now an author, follows her 2019 Wall Street Journal op-ed when she claimed When They See Us was “full of distortions and falsehoods.”

DuVernay responded to a tweet about Fairstein’s op-ed last year, writing that her criticisms were “expected and typical.”

Previously, however, DuVernay said in a sit-down with Oprah Winfrey that aired on Netflix that it was “important” that those responsible for botching the case be held “accountable.”

“And that accountability is happening in a way today that it did not happen for the real men 30 years ago. But I think that it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did because it’s not about her.”

Only time will tell will how this plays out.


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