Central Park 5 prosecutor resigns from nonprofits after Netflix series backlash

Posted at 3:12 PM, Jun 05, 2019

Author and former prosecutor Linda Fairstein - who is 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.

The Netflix limited series "When They See Us" dramatizes the story of five teenage boys of color who were wrongfully convicted in a jogger's 1989 rape.

Fairstein was a prosecutor in the case. There were complaints that the confessions of the Central Park Five, as they came to be known, were coerced, and their convictions were overturned in 2002 after Matias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist, confessed to the rape.

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 city of New York settled with the five wrongfully convicted men in 2014, and they were awarded $41 million.

Fairstein is portrayed in the Netflix series by actress Felicity Huffman.

Fairstein headed up the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan district attorney's office from 1976 to 2002 and went on to become a successful mystery writer.

The author recently deleted her Twitter account after days of sparring with some Twitter users.

In July, Fairstein defended the handling of the case in a letter to the editor of the New York Law Journal.

"The confessions were not coerced," she wrote. "The questioning was respectful, dignified, carried out according to the letter of the law and with sensitivity to the young age of the men."

CNN has reached out to Fairstein and her publisher for comment.