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A man who has been trying for decades to take back his guilty plea in a notorious child molestation case won a huge moral victory Monday when a federal appeals court encouraged prosecutors to reopen their investigation.

Although the judges on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied Jesse Friedman's request to withdraw his plea, saying there was no legal basis to allow that, the panel criticized interrogation techniques by investigators in the 1988 case and actions by prosecutors and the trial judge.

"The record here suggests 'a reasonable likelihood' that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted," the judges said in a 31-page decision. "While the law may require us to deny relief in this case, it does not compel us to do so without voicing some concern regarding the process by which the petitioner's conviction was obtained."

A teenage Friedman and his father, Arnold, pleaded guilty in 1988 to molesting 13 children during computer classes in the basement of their home in Great Neck, on Long Island. Jesse Friedman, now 40, was paroled in 2001; his father committed suicide in prison in 1995. The pair were charged with several hundred counts of sex abuse.


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