Attorneys Say Central Park Five Case Shows How Colleges Handle Controversy

Jun 17, 2019

Earlier in June, a member of the Board of Trustees at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie resigned amid controversy over her role as prosecutor in the 1989 Central Park jogger case.

Linda Fairstein oversaw the prosecution of the 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which five Black and Latino teens were wrongly imprisoned for the rape of a white woman. The case re-entered the spotlight recently with the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.” And it was the miniseries that sparked a change.org petition started by a Vassar College student to have Fairstein, also a best-selling crime novelist, removed from the board. Debra Cohen is co-chair of the Civil Rights Practice Group of law firm Newman Ferrara. She’s also an adjunct professor at Pace University Law School.

She refers to Susan Lederer, a prosecutor on the Central Park Five case who just resigned as lecturer at Columbia Law School. Randolph McLaughlin is an alumnus of Columbia University and Harvard University School of Law, and professor at Pace University Law School.

He refers to Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul accused of sexual misconduct over decades by dozens of high-profile women. McLaughlin, too, is co-chair of the Civil Rights Practice Group of law firm Newman Ferrara. He and Cohen are married.

Fairstein has assailed the Netflix portrayal of the prosecution as inaccurate and misleading. Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley issued a statement to the community following Fairstein’s resignation, saying, in conclusion, that her hope is that continued debate and discord fosters a community of profound learning and humanity.