A judge ruled on Monday that former prosecutor Linda Fairstein has a plausible claim that she was defamed by “When They See Us,” the Netflix series from Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five case. Fairstein sued Netflix, DuVernay and writer Attica Locke in March 2020, alleging that the four-part series portrayed her as a “racist, unethical villain” who framed five young men for a brutal rape and beating. Netflix had argued that the show was protected by the First Amendment. In seeking to throw out the suit, the streamer argued that the filmmakers are allowed to use some dramatic license in creating a portrayal of Fairstein that was substantially true. U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel dismissed a handful of Fairstein’s allegations, but he held that the show had depicted Fairstein in a way that could be defamatory in five scenes. “The average viewer could conclude that these scenes have a basis in fact and do not merely reflect the creators’ opinions about controversial historical events,” Castel wrote. Andrew Miltenberg, Fairstein’s attorney, said he was “extremely pleased” by the ruling. “We are glad that Ms. Fairstein now has the opportunity to pursue her claims with respect to five critical scenes in the series that falsely depict Ms. Fairstein engaging in coercive and discriminatory conduct in order to build a case against innocent young men of color,” he said in a statement. Netflix said it would continue to defend the series, and was confident that it would prevail in the end.
Oct 26, 2022