Linda Fairstein has enjoyed fame since she led the investigation against Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise for the terrible attack on Trisha Meili on the night of April 19, 1989. The case became known as The Central Park Jogger Case and the men were known collectively as the Central Park Five. Following the trial, Linda parlayed her experiences as the head of the Manhattan’s District Attorney Office’s sex crime unit into a lucrative career as a crime author. She also served on the boards of her alma mater, Vassar College and a variety of NYC nonprofits that aid victims of assault. Over the weekend, Linda’s name was thrown back in the spotlight because of Ava DuVernay’s powerful mini-series, When They See Us. As they say, fame is a fickle friend and Linda found out real quick what happens when public opinion is against you. In addition to an online attack that forced her off Twitter and a call to boycott her books, Linda has been forced to resign from several boards, including Vassar.
Author and former prosecutor Linda Fairstein — facing a swarm of controversy over a Netflix series that examines a wrongful conviction in a high-profile rape case — has resigned as a trustee of her alma mater.
Fairstein resigned as a member of the board of trustees of Vassar College, from which she graduated in 1969, the college in Poughkeepsie, New York, said Tuesday.
Emotions stirred by the Netflix series led to a petition calling for Fairstein’s removal from Vassar’s board as well other ones seeking a boycott of her books and a #CancelLindaFairstein movement on social media.
“I am told that Ms. Fairstein felt that, given the recent widespread debate over her role in the Central Park case, she believed that her continuing as a board member would be harmful to Vassar,” Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley wrote in an online message Tuesday.
The author recently deleted her Twitter account after days of sparring with some Twitter users.
I’m just going to co-sign Ava’s response to the news:
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 5, 2019
I have no sympathy for Linda because even with all the compelling evidence against her methods, she has only doubled-down on her insistence that she was right and just in this case. The convictions of the five men were vacated in 2002, when convicted rapist Mattias Reyes confessed to the crime and was linked both by pattern and DNA. At that time, Linda gave an interview to The New Yorker, defending her department’s prosecuting of the case, going as far as to say it was, “one of the most brilliant police investigations I’ve ever seen.” She claimed Mattias was merely the sixth attacker who stayed longer than the other five. Last July, when WTSU was in production, Linda wrote an essay for the New York Law Journal, once again defending the conviction and her work, even though she tried to sidestep some of the blame by shifting it to the juries who heard the cases and the technology that didn’t exist in 1989. In 2014, Linda challenged the $41M awarded to the Exonerated Five by the city of New York, demanding an explanation from the mayor for the settlement. Ava said when she reached out to Linda with WTSU, Linda tried to negotiate her involvement, including script approval. Linda said this never happened. And now that the mini-series is here, Linda has called it a basket of lies. The parallels between what she did to the Exonerated Five and what she claims is happening to her would be comical, if she hadn’t destroyed all those lives in the process. She has never taken responsibility; she has never apologized to the men and now she is facing the consequences of her actions.
I watched WTSU over the weekend. It’s powerful in all the ways people have said. I was as impressed with Ava’s direction and storytelling in this as I was with Selma. I didn’t want to watch it, I was already depressed from events in my own life, but I felt I should. I’m glad I did.
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