Linda Fairstein was the sex crimes prosecutor in New York City in 1989 when a young woman was attacked and raped in Central Park. The case drew national attention and a group of minority teens who were allegedly “wilding” in the park were convicted.

Years later, another man claimed he committed the crime and the “Central Park Five,” as they had become known, were released from prison and sued the city resulting in a large settlement.

A new Netflix series called “When They See Us” debuted this weekend and paints Fairstein in a very negative light. Now she is being purged at various charities and institutions, and there are attempts to remove her books from stores.

She is a graduate of Vassar College and has just resigned from its board of trustees after a Change.org Petition gained over 15,000 signatures. The office of Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley released this statement:

Announcement Regarding Trustee Resignation

Dear All,

I am writing to update the Vassar community. I have just learned from the Chair of the Board of Trustees that Linda Fairstein has resigned from the Board, as of today. 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.

The events of the last few days have underscored how the history of racial and ethnic tensions in this country continue to deeply influence us today, and in ways that change over time. As I have received many emails and phone calls from people who have expressed a broad range of views on this issue, I am reminded of William Faulkner’s quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

It’s not just Vassar. The New York Post reports:

‘Central Park Five’ prosecutor resigns from charity boards over Netflix show backlash

Former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein resigned Tuesday from several nonprofit boards in the wake of a controversy triggered by a new Netflix series about the infamous Central Park Five case, The Post has learned.

In a letter to the chairman of the Safe Horizon victims-services agency, Fairstein said she wanted to spare it further grief through association with her.

“I do not want to become a lightning rod to inflict damage on this organization, because of those now attacking my record of fighting for social justice for more than 45 years,” Fairstein wrote.

There even is a Petition to remove her books from stores. The Petition has over 80,000 signatures.

Fairstein claims that the show distorts her and her role in the investigation.

Lloyd Grove writes at the Daily Beast:

Central Park Five Prosecutor Takes Fire Over Ava DuVernay Netflix Series, Calls It ‘Basket of Lies’

Linda Fairstein is feeling the heat from prize-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, which portrays the retired New York sex-crimes prosecutor as a purveyor of injustice who racially profiled and railroaded the so-called Central Park Five three decades ago.

A #cancellindafairstein hashtag has been trending on Twitter in recent days. A petition demanding retailers and publishers pull her crime novels drew more than 40,000 signatures in a day. She was called corrupt, racist, and “the face of evil” on social media after the show premiered.

“It’s a basket of lies,” Fairstein, 72, told The Daily Beast as the furor spread this week.

This is a woman who was a much-praised pioneer in prosecuting sex crimes cases. From the New York Times in 2001:

Fairstein Is to Retire As Prosecutor Of Sex Crimes

Linda A. Fairstein, who became the nation’s best-known prosecutor of sex crimes in a 30-year career of major cases, legislative reforms and best-selling books that explored the legal and emotional realities of rape, will retire next year as chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit.

The 54-year-old prosecutor, a pioneer in using DNA evidence to identify sex offenders and a forceful advocate of laws to prosecute date rape and drug-related rapes and to spare victims from having their sexual histories examined in court, said she would step down on Feb. 1 to write, lecture and serve as a consultant on sex crimes to the police and prosecutors in New York and elsewhere.

”I intend to stay very active on the issues of violence against women that have been closely associated with my career since 1972,” said Ms. Fairstein, who has been portrayed on television programs as a hard-driving prosecutor. She spoke in a telephone interview yesterday after telling colleagues of her decision.

There is another angle to this story which seems relevant. Like all things Hollywood, there is an anti-Trump aspect to the Netflix series. Ken Burns, the documentary filmmaker and Democrat activist, is known for his disdain of Trump and is also a director on the show.

Trump’s connection to the famous case and the series it’s based on hardly seems like a coincidence.

Patrick Ryan reports at USA Today:

Ava DuVernay lets Trump ‘speak for himself’ in Central Park Five series ‘When They See Us’

Despite its 1980s setting, the specter of current politics hangs over Netflix’s Central Park Five miniseries “When They See Us.”

“They need to keep that bigot off TV, that’s what they need to do,” mother Sharon Salaam (Aunjanue Ellis) says while watching an interview with future president Donald Trump, in which he tells NBC’s Bryant Gumbel that he would “love to be a well-educated black.”

“Don’t worry about it,” her friend responds. “His 15 minutes (are) almost up.”

It’s an eerily prescient exchange that’s sure to spark conversation among viewers of Ava DuVernay’s new four-part drama, now streaming, which follows a group of black and Hispanic teenagers who were convicted (and later exonerated) in connection with the 1989 rape of jogger Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white investment banker.

At the time of the brutal assault, Trump was a high-powered New York real-estate mogul adamant about cracking down on crime. Although no DNA evidence connected the boys, aged 14 to 16, to the attack, that didn’t stop Trump from spending $85,000 on full-page ads in four city newspapers, calling for their executions.

This is the ad Trump ran at the time:

At a time when Democrats are worried about losing black voters to Trump, this could be the Hollywood left’s way of trying to “help” their party.

Was Linda Fairstein just collateral damage? We saw the left sacrifice some of their own during the early days of the #MeToo movement. If there were no Trump connection to the story, would the reaction have been different?

Featured image via YouTube.

 
 
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