Miltenberg: “She Was the Villain in ‘When They See Us.’ Now She’s Suing Ava DuVernay and Netflix,” Los Angeles Times


Linda Fairstein, whose office oversaw the prosecution of the 1989 Central Park Five assault case, on Wednesday sued Netflix and director Ava DuVernay over her portrayal in the acclaimed miniseries “When They See Us.” Fairstein was the head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes unit during the case in which five young black and brown men were convicted of the rape and beating of a New York jogger. The convictions were vacated in 2002, and the five received a $41 million settlement from the city more than a decade later. The Emmy-winning “When They See Us,” directed by DuVernay, was released on Netflix in May. The former prosecutor’s lawsuit accuses Netflix and DuVernay of multiple counts of defamation, saying Fairstein was wrongly depicted as a racist and unethical villain. The 119-page complaint was filed in U.S. district court in Florida, where Fairstein is a resident, according to the document. The suit also named “When They See Us” co-writer and producer Attica Locke as a defendant. “‘When They See Us’ portrays Ms. Fairstein in a false and defamatory manner in nearly every scene in the three episodes in which she appears,” the complaint said. “In the film series, which defendants have marketed and promoted as a true story, defendants depict Ms. Fairstein — using her true name — as a racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.” The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief against further alleged defamation by DuVernay and the other defendants. Los Gatos-based Netflix, in a statement, blasted the lawsuit as “frivolous” and vowed to defend against it. “Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit,” the company said. “We intend to vigorously defend ‘When They See Us’ and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series.” … Her attorney, New York-based Andrew Miltenberg of Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, said the intent of the suit was not to “re-litigate the guilt or innocence” of the exonerated men — Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray. Fairstein’s career, he said, has been “irreparably damaged” by “When They See Us,” which won two Emmys, including actor in a limited series for Jharrel Jerome, who played Wise.

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