Linda Fairstein, the former prosecutor whose role in the 1989 Central Park Five trial led to the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five teenage boys, has resigned from her position on the board of Safe Horizon, the country’s largest victim services non-profit organization.
A Safe Horizon spokesperson told TMZ:
“After careful consideration, Linda Fairstein has made the difficult decision to resign from the Safe Horizon Board of Directors. We thank her for her decades of pioneering work on behalf of victims of sexual assault and abuse. For more than 40 years, Safe Horizon’s top priority has been empowering victims and survivors.”
The statement continues, “We believe every victim deserves access to safety and support and will continue working toward that reality.”
Fairstein’s role in the trial has come under fire following the release of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries When They See Us, which depicted Fairstein racially profiling and coercing confessions from the five teenagers accused of raping a jogger. Fairstein become a lucrative crime novelist following the trial, and the miniseries has prompted several petitions calling for a boycott of her novels.
“Linda Fairstein achieved her fame & fortune through her wild imagination & at the expense of five INNOCENT children’s pain,” one of the petitions reads. “Linda Fairstein led a witch hunt against five teenage boys even though the physical evidence didn’t support her theory she raged on with one goal in mind & that was to get a conviction at any expense even the lives of teenage boys.”
The Central Park Five were exonerated in 2002, after serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, which is when Fairstein’s role in that case first came under scrutiny. As one judge told Newsday (per a Village Voice piece) in 2002, “I was concerned about a criminal justice system that would tolerate the conduct of the prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, who deliberately engineered the 15-year-old’s confession. . . . Fairstein wanted to make a name. She didn’t care. She wasn’t a human.”
TMZ says staffers at Safe Horizon have been calling for Fairstein’s resignation since before When They See Us started streaming. Fairstein claimed in her resignation letter to Safe Horizon that the miniseries “depicts me, in a fictionalized version of events, in a grossly and maliciously inaccurate manner,” which seems like a very small comeuppance in exchange for five young men’s decades of false imprisonment.