The Secret Life Of Arnold Friedman
By Alvin E. Bessent
Newsday - May 28, 1989
Friends and parents knew him as a respected teacher. What they didn't know was that he and his son were sexually abusing pre-teen boys. See end of text for sidebar-Possible Telltale Signs
IN THE SPRING of 1986, about 100 people - most of them former students of the guest of honor - crowded a hot, second-floor television studio at Bayside High School in Queens to honor a science teacher named Arnold Friedman.
The ex-students, who had come from places as far away as California, greeted each other over sodas and sandwiches and talked about a man some described as unforgettable and others called the best teacher they'd ever had. One guest credited Friedman with turning his life around.
The occasion was Arnold Friedman's retirement after a 26-year career at Bayside High. Friedman, who had the respect of his peers as well as his students, had taught one of New York City's first high school classes in nuclear physics and the first organic chemistry class ever offered at Bayside. And he and his students had converted classroom 235 into WBAY-TV, a simulated television station where they produced videotapes. In a speech to the group, Lester Speiser, principal of the school during most of Friedman's tenure, talked about the joy that Friedman got from "communicating and teaching and seeing his students succeed."
Afterwards, Friedman's youngest son, Jesse, pumped Speiser's hand. "It was wonderful, the things you said about my father," Speiser remembers Jesse telling him.
"In my whole career I don't remember students ever throwing a party like this for someone," Speiser says. * * *
On the day of Arnold Friedman's retirement party, postal inspectors in New York City were in the middle of an investigation that would shatter the teacher's reputation, tear apart his family and horrify his suburban community.
The investigation had been going on for two years. In July, 1984, U. S. Customs officials at Kennedy airport had plucked a small parcel from the stream of boxes and envelopes culled daily for contraband. They had learned to be suspicious of small parcels in plain brown wrappers like the one sent from Holland to Arnold Friedman, 17 Picadilly Rd., Great Neck, Long Island.
Inside was a magazine called Boy Love. It featured low-budget color photos of nude boys and graphic pictures of men having sex with children.
Postal authorities were alerted and the investigation was launched. Using an undercover name and address, a postal inspector wrote to Arnold Friedman and asked if he had "boy lover" material to sell. "I have none to sell but am interested in obtaining," Friedman responded three days later. "Do you know of any sources?"
The inspector, who called himself Stan, wrote back but heard nothing from Friedman for more than a year. Then, the day after Christmas, 1985, Friedman renewed the correspondence. "I have a great photo book from Holland that might be copyable. Could you do it?" Other letters followed; the correspondents became "Stan" and "Arnie." "The book is `Joe and his Uncle,' " Arnie wrote. "I think I'd like you to send me something (sort of good faith) and I will forward this rather precious book to you."
Stan sent two photos and on Feb. 8, 1986, Arnie mailed a large envelope with a handwritten note. "Stan - Enjoy! Arnie." Inside was the magazine "Joe and His Uncle" - kiddie-porn from a company in Denmark. It was the breakthrough the postal inspectors had been waiting for. The correspondence built up; Arnie even filled out a questionnaire from Stan for an ostensible porn pen-pal club.
On Nov. 3, 1987, an inspector dressed as a postman returned "Joe and his Uncle" to the house on Picadilly Road where Arnold Friedman gave computer lessons to children. Fifteen minutes later, government officials and Nassau police, armed with a warrant, raided the home. They found a foot-high stack of child pornography secreted behind a piano in the living room. And there were grimmer discoveries - child-sized dildoes in a cabinet just outside a makeshift classroom.
They also found a list of 80 names and phone numbers handwritten in Friedman's tortured, tiny scrawl.
Police realized that they had found something that went far beyond pornographic magazines. They intensified the investigation. Before it was over, the probe would uncover the largest child sex-abuse case ever on Long Island and one of the largest in New York State - both in the number of victims and the number of charges. The investigation would leave the lives of the children and their families in shambles, and underline the difficulty of gathering evidence in cases involving pedophiles - adults who are sexually attracted to children.
And it would leave friends, relatives and colleagues of award-winning teacher Arnold Friedman wondering how such a seemingly nice man could do such horrible things. How it could have happened without anyone knowing it was going on?
"I ask myself, looking back, if there were any clues I could have picked up on and the answer is no," said Robert Sholiton, director of The Adult Program for the Great Neck public schools, where Arnold Friedman taught computer classes from 1981 to 1987. "I keep asking myself, is this the man I knew?"
Along the way, the investigation into what went on in the house on Picadilly Road would lay bare a lifetime of unspeakable secrets, and lead to Friedman and his 19-year-old son, Jesse, being indicted on hundreds of counts of sex abuse and sentenced to jail terms. THEY WERE secrets that would make the brick-and-shingle high-ranch on a proverbial tree-lined, suburban street in upscale Great Neck a chamber of horrors for dozens of children. Police said that 140 children - ranging in age from 7 to 12 - would finally admit what they had been too shamed and afraid to tell their parents. Some of them still wet their beds, take baseball bats to bed with them or are unable to sleep. "If you murder someone, seconds later they're dead," says the father of one of the young victims. "This was like a prolonged torture they subjected the kids to." They were secrets of incest that Arnold Friedman's now 19-year-old son Jesse kept hidden through years of therapy and drug abuse. "I guess it mostly started out with my father trying to love me." Jesse says.
They were also secrets that Arnold Friedman, a pudgy 58-year-old pedophile, had not only managed to hide from colleagues but, according to the woman to whom he had been married for 33 years, even concealed from her. "It hit me like a bolt from the blue," she says.
* * *
Arnold Friedman was born in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, the second of three children. Money was scarce for the family during the Great Depression. Arnold's father hustled a living buying and selling auto parts. According to Arnold Friedman's wife - who insisted that her first name be withheld as a condition for consenting to an interview - her father-in-law was emotionally distant. "Arnie's father was a strange man," Mrs. Friedman said. "He didn't talk. When he walked in he said `Hi.' When he left he said `goodbye.' " But she said there was never any indication that her father-in-law molested his son.
When Arnold was about 5 years old, his father left the family, plunging them into even more desperate financial straits. The father kept in touch with his relatives but would never again live with his wife and children. "There was an older sister who died suddenly of what they called at the time blood poisoning. This was a Shirley Temple look-alike. The mother was devastated by this sudden death," Mrs. Friedman said. "The father left . . . They were on welfare as a result."
After he graduated from Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach, Arnold went to Brooklyn College and then Columbia University, where he studied chemical engineering. He worked for a short time as an engineer, his wife said, but quit because he detested the odors.
Instead, Arnold, who played the piano, chose to spend his time working Brooklyn clubs as "Arnito Ray," leader of a six-man rhumba band. "I was very much in love with Arnold's music," said Mrs. Friedman. "He never really spoke too much, but his feelings came out in his music and that's what really attracted me."
The bride-to-be had also grown up in Brooklyn. Her father abandoned his family when she was 18, and her mother, an unemployed bookkeeper, was forced to move with her daughter into the home of relatives. There was no hugging or touching in her family, she said. "They are very loving people. They just don't know how to show their love."
In Arnold she found a man concealed within a similar emotional shroud.
"In fact, when Arnie and I were first going together, he said to me, and probably only once said it, `I love you.' It made me feel uncomfortable."
They married in 1955, and eventually moved to Flushing, where they bought their first house. Mrs. Friedman taught school. Arnold played club dates at night but took education courses and did substitute teaching during the day. In 1960, he relegated the band to weekends and became a full-time science teacher at Bayside High School.
His colleagues saw an imaginative, productive teacher whose humor, even temper and contagious enthusiasm made him respected and well liked. He had a favorite response to suggestions, they said. "Dynamite."
"We never saw him really raise his voice or get angry," said a Great Neck neighbor who also taught with him at Bayside but did not want her name used.
Arnold displayed what Mark Yohalem, former head of the Bayside High School science department, described as "a relaxed authoritativeness."
"He was always one of my best," said Speiser, who was principal at Bayside from 1972 to 1985. "In all this time he was like a pied piper. He was venerated by the boys and girls." Speiser and his family celebrated at the Friedman house in 1983 when computer instructions written by Arnold were released on records and cassette tapes. And Arnold played the piano at the marriage of Speiser's daughter in 1984. "In the years I knew him there was never a scintilla, not a breath of this kind of thing," Speiser said, referring to the abuse case.
Speiser said he teased Friedman for being obsessed with technology. "I would walk in and he'd be doing something technical. I would yell, `Hamlet, Hamlet. Do something with that!' "
In 1981, Friedman was hired by the Great Neck School District to teach personal computers in The Adult Program. By the next year, he was appointed coordinator for the program's 20 or so computer classes, said spokeswoman Ronna Telsey. He always had high enrollments and positive ratings, officials said.
And in October, 1987, less than a month before authorities seized stacks of kiddie-porn from his house, Arnold Friedman was cited by the state Association for Computers and Technologies in Education for innovation and excellence in computer education.
But at home, Friedman seemed a different person - his effervesence disappeared.
He was a workaholic who talked little and demonstrated no affection for either her or their three sons, Mrs. Friedman said. He never hugged the boys. He would stay alone for hours in one of the two cluttered offices he maintained in the Great Neck house and then spend the remainder of the night slumped in front of the television set.
"A sentence that began `I feel' was never in his vocabulary," Mrs. Friedman said. "The only conversations Arnold ever had with the children were about work."
"I had an awfully peculiar family," says Jesse Friedman.
* * *
When word went out in Great Neck that Arnold Friedman was offering private computer classes for children in his home - teaching general know-how and basic programing - there was no shortage of takers.
Police said the classes took place for about eight years, starting around 1979.
Hundreds of largely college-educated, upper-middle-class professionals - doctors, lawyers, business executives and entrepreneurs - enrolled their children. Officials estimate that about 500 youngsters, the great majority of them boys, participated in the classes.
The parents of five of Arnold Friedman's victims have talked at length about the case in recent months. All said they went inside the Friedman house only once - when they dropped their children off for the first day of class. They saw nothing to be suspicious about.
A small room to the right of a short corridor had been converted into a classroom. Kid-size, Formica-topped tables held personal computers. Tiny orange, yellow and blue molded plastic chairs were scattered about the room, which was cluttered with books, computer manuals, magazines and hundreds of computer discs. On one dark, wood-paneled wall, a printout sign proclaimed: "Computer Class is Great."
"It had a real classroom feeling. A little shabby, a little seedy, but a real classroom," said a woman who enrolled her two sons.
Across the hall was the entry to Arnold Friedman's office. Just beyond the classroom, adjacent to a laundry room and bathroom, was the room where Jesse slept. A sign on the wall called his domain "Paradise 7."
Arnold, his wife and sons stared from a framed photograph in the hall.
The parents left confident that all was as it seemed. An affable Arnold Friedman had explained that there was no need to come into the house when they left and picked up their children. He said neighbors had complained about heavy traffic and parking congestion. The parents could simply pull up out front and his son Jesse would escort the kids into and out of the house.
The children came home with stacks of printouts and talked about what they had learned about computers. But they were too shamed and fearful to talk about everything that took up their after-school hours.
Police have given the following account of what happened in Arnold Friedman's computer class:
What the parents did not see were the pornographic magazines interspersed on shelves along with legitimate classroom materials. Some featured pictures of nude women, others showed men posing with women, men with men and men with young boys. Students sent in search of computer manuals would stumble across the magazines.
Soon the children found that Arnold knew they'd discovered the racy pictures. He told them he understood. Their parents would get uptight about things like that, he said, but they could talk to him about anything.
Next the children were introduced to the pornographic computer discs. Things like "Stroker," in which the player could make a graphic representation of a man masturbate. And "Strip Poker," in which a prone woman figure would shed clothing as the game progressed until she was naked.
Or "Talking Sam" in which a male figure would expose his genitals and ask the kids questions about sex.
Det. Sgt. Frances Galasso, head of the Nassau sex crimes unit, said the Friedmans had the children mimic the actions of the computer figure in "Talking Sam." "The Friedmans would demonstrate that on the kids, touch them on their private parts and have the kids touch them."
As a reward for keeping quiet, children were allowed to take computer discs home to copy. In a few cases, police found such discs in the homes of Friedman's students. None of the parents knew what the discs contained, police said. Experts said this added to the youngsters' feelings of complicity. And the children were warned that if they told anyone what was going on there would be no more computer classes in Great Neck, Arnold Friedman would go to jail and it would be all their fault.
"I really wanted to take computer so I never told anyone about what was going on except my dog," said one 8-year-old victim in his statement to police.
Inexorably, police said, the Friedmans increased the abuse, touching and fondling and performing sex acts. Boys were eventually told to drop their pants. The Friedmans would sometimes expose themselves, walk around the room and order their young charges to touch them. Children's games were perverted. Nudity and fondling were demanded in "Simon Says."
Refusals to cooperate were punished by Arnold and Jesse.
"I remember once they banged some kid's head against the wall and said this will happen to you," a 12-year-old boy who attended the classes two years ago said in an interview. "Mr. Friedman would sneak up behind me and take his hand and push it down into my pants," said an 8-year-old boy in his statement to police. "Jesse used to sneak up from behind me and he would slide his hands the same way his father did. First he would touch my shoulders then down my chest and into my pants.
"Mr. Friedman pulled my pants half-way down and he made me hold onto one of the computer table chairs . . . I screamed `Dad!' and Mr. Friedman said to me to be quiet. Mr. Friedman put his hands over my mouth. During this time the other kids were screaming and telling Mr. Friedman to get off me. I was scared and the other kids were scared, too."
Then in March, 1986, friends of Jesse joined in what police said escalated into orgies of sexual abuse. Arnold and Jesse Friedman and three teens would sometimes attend classes with five to 10 students. Victims recounted being held down by one attacker and raped by another.
As the abuse escalated so did the threats. Police said the children were extensively videotaped and photographed. No pictures of the children have been recovered. But police said Arnold Friedman told the children he would send pornographic pictures of them to magazines and tell the publishers to print their names if they told what was going on.
He threatened to burn their houses down. He reportedly said he would kill their parents.
"It was brainwashing," the mother of one victim said.
* * *
The Friedmans' wall of secrecy quickly disintegrated after police and postal inspectors turned up the list of names in the Nov. 3 raid.
It was a wall that apparently had even hid Arnold Friedman's activities from his wife. "When the federal officers came, Arnold told me he'd mailed a magazine and that was the totality of his crime," Mrs. Friedman said. "He was almost in tears because they took his books. Not because his family was in jeopardy, but because they took his pictures. The family was distraught and destroyed. We began to bicker a lot and work at cross purposes with each other."
Although Friedman insisted he was guilty only of collecting pornography, she said, he began to talk about suicide.
"He felt desperate," said Mark Yohalem, Friedman's former department chairman. Yohalem talked to him shortly after he was hit with the federal charges. "He saw his life in ruins regardless of how the trial would come out."
Jesse, then a student at SUNY Purchase, said his mother called and told him about the raid. He refused to accept later calls from home, and for the next few weeks tried to forget developments in Great Neck.
Galasso and her 11-member squad of Nassau detectives and officers were hard at work checking out names. The interviews started when detectives chose a name at random from the handwritten list and visited that family. They found three brothers who had all attended classes with the Friedmans. "Two of the three boys gave indications they'd been sexually abused by Mr. Friedman," Galasso said.
But the parents refused to cooperate with the investigation, a reaction that police came to know well. About two dozen families flatly refused to allow officers to talk to their children. "There were even kids who told their parents they were involved in front of us and the parents didn't believe it," Galasso said.
Working with the list of names, Galasso's squad divided into two-persons teams and knocked on doors all over Great Neck as they followed the list. Files were established for each child. Police officers canceled vacations and switched to night shifts.
It was a week before Thanksgiving when two detectives knocked on the door of a woman who would still look haunted more than a year later as she recounted the scene.
The detectives - a man and woman team - said child pornography had been found in Arnold Friedman's house. They wanted to speak to her son as a precaution.
She said the boy "started out saying nothing happened. Then, `Maybe I saw something.' Then about two hours later, `Well, maybe Arnold did expose himself. Maybe Jesse did expose himself.' " Finally, the boy described being fondled and sodomized.
"At that point I went nuts," the woman said, remembering the fury she felt at Arnold Friedman. "I said if you don't arrest him after what I just heard, I'm going to buy a gun and kill him."
One young boy, who revealed what happened only after numerous visits by detectives, repeatedly pounded his head against a wall while describing the sexual abuse. "He would literally beat himself, he was so guilty about what had happened," Galasso said.
As more and more children confided in police, their parents began to talk with one another. Arnold Friedman had phoned some and sent letters to others saying he was innocent - that police were setting him up. He asked for their support.
Frustrated because no arrests had been made, a group of parents decided to confront the teacher at his home. They met Nov. 24 at an office in Great Neck in preparation for the siege. Police attended the meeting. They headed off the confrontation by convincing the group that arrests were imminent.
The next day, Nov. 25, 1987, 12 Nassau police officers and an assistant district attorney descended on the house and broke in the front door. They took Arnold Friedman into custody.
Mrs. Friedman was out shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. Thirty minutes after police arrived, she got home to find neighbors, reporters and camera crews gathered out front and her husband inside in handcuffs. "It was a horror," said Mrs. Friedman, who frantically tried to stop the police searching her house.
"She pushed me," Galasso said. "She threw a punch at my head."
Arnold Friedman was arrested on a variety of child-abuse charges, and his wife was arrested for attempted assault.
Jesse Friedman was with friends shopping in the East Village that day. He bought a scarf and some records and then at 5 p.m., he called home. Galasso answered. His father and mother had been arrested, she said. She advised him to come home.
Telling his friends nothing of what was going on, he went to Pennsylvania Station, stumbled onto a Long Island Rail Road train and began the long ride home to arrest and jail.
It was a journey that had begun in his childhood.
* * *
According to the judge who would sentence him to prison for child abuse, Jesse Friedman was "raised an unwanted child in a home devoid of love."
His mother, in tears as the judge spoke, didn't challenge that assessment.
"When I was married and had babies, I couldn't love those babies," she said in an interview. "I asked Jesse, do you remember me hugging you at all? He said no. He was so starved for love, for approval, for acceptance that he would have done anything for this love.
"He came into the family sort of out of step. The family focus was on the two older boys," said the mother, who declined to discuss her older sons, neither of whom was involved in the sex abuse case. "He was always kind of . . . dragged along and felt excluded."
Jesse Friedman was interviewed in March in a prison visiting room. As he slouched on a plastic chair and sipped a cherry cola, Jesse said he is "halfway between loving and hating" the man he holds responsible for landing him in prison. "He let me down as a father."
When he was 8 or 9 years old, Jesse said, he stumbled upon his father's cache of kiddie porn. Later, his father began to visit his bedroom at night and fondle him. The abuse escalated into sodomy.
"In my family, everything got washed under the rug," Jesse said. "I never told about the abuse. I didn't think anyone would understand. Trying to do something about the problems in my family never seemed to get me anywhere." Jesse said his parents fought a great deal. "I used to go to sleep listening to them fighting, screaming at one another . . . I never saw them loving each other. I would cry when they would fight. I would bang on the walls. I've got all these holes in the walls from my banging." Jesse said his parents argued about him and about such mundane issues as the color of a carpet.
When he was 10, Jesse began psychiatric therapy. He insists he never told his therapist about the incest.
Jesse increasingly had trouble in school. By ninth grade he rarely attended classes and failed every subject. His academic record improved when he enrolled in an alternative school in Great Neck.
But his emotional problems continued. At 15, Jesse said, he was diagnosed as manic depressive. "I had no friends and no interests except M&Ms, marshmallows and TV." He was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and he ballooned to 175 pounds. At 16 he began smoking marijuana and using LSD, and before long he was stoned on a daily basis.
Jesse gave up drugs a year later after meeting his first girlfriend. "I enjoyed friends and women more than smoking pot," he said.
As he sipped the soft drink and talked about his life, Jesse had been glancing about the room. Now his close-set, ice-blue eyes stared straight ahead. "I'm not a pedophile. I hate little kids," he declared without blinking. He tugged an ear and stroked the close-cropped beard grown during his first few weeks in prison. "I'm a perfectly healthy, adjusted heterosexual."
It was during his teenage years that Jesse helped his father teach the computer classes in their home. "Jesse was thrilled to do the computer class with Arnie because it was something, it was an activity that gave him a father," his mother said.
* * *
The crimes of Arnold and Jesse Friedman spread pain in a wide wake. Young victims were left scared and unable to sleep. One boy is deathly afraid of fire. Another's stutter has grown worse. Well-behaved children have become difficult.
One 12-year-old questioned his faith. As the boy waited in a courthouse corridor to be sworn to testify before one of three grand juries convened in the case, a prosecutor asked if he believed in God. The boy's mother remembered her son's reply. "No, because a good God wouldn't let this happen to children."
Another mother had lunch with a friend whose son had also been a computer student. She tried to convince her companion that something horrible had indeed happened in the Friedman house. The woman flew into a huff.
"I thought she was going to throw the food in my face. She said she had such a good relationship with her kid he would talk to her. I said, `What am I - a bad mother?'"
Like other guilt-ridden parents, the woman wondered why she didn't see what was happening. And she wrestled with an equally nagging question: Why didn't my child confide in me?
"In the subculture of adolescent boys, the greatest taboo is being homosexual," said FBI special agent Kenneth Lanning, a veteran of more than 1,000 such cases. "That's a big incentive to keep your mouth shut."
According to the victims, fear was another answer.
Experts say silence in the face of abuse is commmon for childen whose first response to the unthinkable is figuratively to pull the covers over their heads and forget it ever happened. "It's almost like an amnesia," said Dr. Sandra Kaplan, chief of North Shore University Hospital's division of child and adolescent psychology, who is treating some of the Friedman victims.
One 12-year-old boy was interviewed for this story in his own room. The room - crammed with schoolwork, electronic equipment, personal computers and two dogs - bespoke comfort and security. But the boy squirmed as he struggled to come to terms with his silence about what had happened during the computer classes in the Friedman house. "The threats made a pretty good impression," he said, glasses askew and eyes darting. He recalled the incident in which a boy's head was banged against the wall. " `Tell and this will happen to you,' " he quoted the Friedmans as saying. He said they also threatened to kill his parents and burn his house if he told.
It was almost two years after his last computer class but the strain of remembering soon showed. A lost calculator, a misplaced page of algebra problems and a screaming bout with a younger brother left the boy on the verge of tears. Then his nose began to bleed. The nosebleeds predated his enrollment in computer classes. But they too were triggered by stress. He's always agitated like that after talking about the Friedmans, his parents said later across their dining-room table.
It has also been difficult for parents to talk about their children's ordeals. "We used to have lunches when we sat around and cried on each other's shoulders. I don't think it will ever end," one mother said.
Eventually, about 14 families banded together and, over countless hours, helped police and prosecutors build cases against the men charged with abusing their kids. Twenty children testified before grand juries that ultimately returned three indictments in the case.
"It helps them a great deal," Kaplan said, referring generally to victims of child abuse. "This enhances their selfesteem, to see themselves as heroes because they helped stop sex abuse." * * *
On March 29, 1988, Arnold Friedman appeared in Federal Court in Brooklyn and was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison for distributing child pornography through the mail. Meanwhile, Arnold, Jesse, and Ross Goldstein, 18, a friend of Jesse's, would be indicted in Nassau County on a total of 464 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse, using a child in a sexual performance and endangering the welfare of a child. Arnold, indicted on 107 counts, would later plead guilty to 42 sex crimes, including eight counts of sodomy and 28 counts of first-degree sexual abuse. Jesse, charged with 239 counts, pleaded guilty to 25 charges, including 17 counts of sodomy and four counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
Both Arnold and Jesse would admit molesting 13 boys. On May 13, 1988, Arnold was sentenced by Nassau County Court Judge Abbey Boklan to a concurrent 10 to 30 years in prison for sodomy, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Boklan recommended that he serve the full 30 years. Arnold, who will be eligible for parole in 10 years, is imprisoned in the Federal Correctional Institute in Oxford, Wis. In a letter to Newsday, in which he refused requests for interviews, he referred to his case as "the Great Neck Horror" and said it was the story of a town that "conducted a modern-day witch hunt."
"The fact that my son and I pleaded guilty was not an admission of culpability," Friedman wrote, "but an attempt to salvage whatever little remained of our lives."
On Jan. 24, 1989, Jesse Friedman was sentenced to six to 18 years in prison. At the sentencing, Jesse revealed through his attorney, Peter Panaro, that he had been abused by his father. Despite the attorney's plea for leniency, Boklan again recommended that the defendant serve the full sentence. Jesse is in the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
"I don't long to be free," Jesse said in the prison interview. "I don't miss my old life."
Ross Goldstein, who was indicted on 118 counts of various sexual abuses, cooperated with authorities and implicated Jesse Friedman before a grand jury. He pleaded guilty March 22 to three counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of using a child in a sexual performance. He was sentenced May 3 to two to six years in prison.
Mrs. Friedman pleaded guilty to attempted assault, second degree, and obstructing governmental administration. She was sentenced Oct. 20, 1988, to three years probation and a $1,000 fine.
Two additional suspects - teens referred to by the children and named by Goldstein - remain at large. The children were unable to identify the two positively in police line-ups.
Police said they believe the two suspects were photographed and videotaped with the children. They said the children claim to have been extensively photographed. Nassau detectives have viewed pictures seized in other jurisdictions but have not yet turned up anything.
Bitterness resulted among parents of the some of the victims who felt that prosecutors had failed to force Jesse Friedman to lead police to the photos before allowing him to plead guilty. The parents fear the pictures will be circulated among pedophiles and will one day surface and embarrass the children.
Some parents attended a series of tense meetings with Assistant District Attorney Joseph Onorato while he negotiated Jesse Friedman's plea. They said he told them their children would have to testify in open court if the case went to trial. Onorato also raised the spectre of appeals based on defense attempts to suppress the list police used to locate the victims. The parents said they were told that all of the evidence their children provided could be suppressed by an adverse ruling.
Onorato said he just wanted parents to know all the things that could possibly go wrong if they proceeded to trial.
The parents reluctantly accepted the deal that sent Jesse Friedman to prison. "It seemed like Jesse was calling the shots," the mother of one victim said. "Jesse could accept or reject the plea bargain. Jesse could appeal."
Both federal and state prosecutors said as a rule they always prefer to avoid taking child molesters to trial. "We don't want to put these children on the stand if we can avoid it," said Andrew Maloney, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
* * *
Discussing sexual-abuse therapy, Kaplan said that one objective is to help such victims learn to deal with shame and confusion about their sexuality. "A boy who has been sodomized may feel that he's destined to be a homosexual. We help them to understand they're victims. That sex abuse is the fault of the adult perpetrator, not the child."
The children whose parents deny what has happened and force them to suppress it often suffer the most, Kaplan said. "Parents who encourage their children to deny are telling their kids they can't trust them to help."
For some parents and children, the ordeal was exacerbated by accidental meetings with Mrs. Friedman and Jesse, who was free on bail for a long time after his indictment. One woman and her two sons - both victims - saw Mrs. Friedman and Jesse in a local poultry market. The boys ran for cover. "My kids were deathly afraid. They asked for the keys and ran out and locked themselves in the car," the woman said.
Some of the children who testified before the grand juries received threatening telephone calls warning them not to cooperate with police. Now they worry that videotapes will come back to haunt them. They want to forget the lessons in the house on Picadilly Road.
"I've been trying to put it behind me and go on," one 12-year-old victim said of the experience that scarred his childhood. He tries not to think about the respected teacher who lived a secret life.
By virtue of his own admissions in court, Arnold Friedman is a pedophile. According to Kaplan, he fits much of the classic pattern. Pedophiles, she said, are often intelligent, talented and respected in their communities. They often manage to find jobs such as teachers, police officers, doctors or nurses, or activities like scout leader or coach that bring them into regular contact with children. In many cases, they were abused as children and pick out victims in that age group. They come from all social classes and all walks of life.
It is common for them to live behind facades so respectable that even the parents of their victims are shocked by the disclosures of abuse. It was that way with Arnold Friedman, whose persona was his protection.
"These kind of offenders are the most prolific child molesters known to mankind," says FBI agent Kenneth Lanning. But he adds: "One of the difficulties is the stereotype of the offender as totally bad, the dirty old man in the wrinkled raincoat. Society has a problem when the offender is not totally bad." Possible Telltale Signs EXPERTS say that it is difficult but not impossible for parents to protect children from pedophiles, who often hide behind a cloak of respectability while their victims rarely talk about being attacked and sometimes exhibit no symptoms.
Police and experts on the subject say several of the following symptoms of behavior, while not necessarily proof that sexual abuse is taking place, may become evident:
Many young victims become irritable, depressed, can't sleep, or become afraid of men in general, said Dr. Sandra Kaplan, director of North Shore University Hospital's Division of Child and Adolescent Psychology.
They may also display "hypersexuality," a sudden concern with sex that is inappropriate for their age. Compulsive masturbation and fear of going to a specific place can also occur. Other children display what Kaplan calls a "frozen watchfulness," suspiciously eyeing people around them. Abused children may begin to dress in inappropriately heavy clothes, said Alane Fagin, executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Services of Roslyn. "They're ashamed of their bodies. They think people can see they've been sexually abused." Fagin also said that some victims may want to bathe continually.
But about one in four abused children will show no symptoms at all, Kaplan said. Boys, in particular, are less likely to confide what's happening to them, she said. The bottom line, said postal inspector John McDermott, whose unit conducted the Friedman child pornography investigation, is never trust your child completely to anyone.
When a child is with a babysitter, teacher or anyone, McDermott said, "one of the things you should do is drop in unannounced and uninvited."