Former Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Sues Ava DuVernay and Netflix Over 'When They See Us'
By Liz Calvario
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Former prosecutor Linda Fairstein filed a lawsuit against Netflix and Ava DuVernay over When They See Us.
According to multiple reports, Fairstein, who served as liaison to DA Morgenthau and provided technical assistance to ADA Ledere as depicted in the series, sued the streaming service, DuVernay and co-writer Attica Locke on Wednesday, claiming she was wrongfully portrayed as the "racist mastermind" behind the wrongful prosecution of five men of color, per Variety. ET has reached out to DuVernay for comment.
"In the film series, which Defendants have marketed and promoted as a true story, Defendants depict Ms. Fairstein -- using her true name -- as a racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost," the suit alleges, per the magazine.
Portrayed by Felicity Huffman, Fairstein ran the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan D.A.'s office in 1989. The former prosecutor alleges in the lawsuit that the script made up fictional dialogue in order to mischaracterize her as racist.
"Throughout the film series, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed as making statements that she never said, taking actions that she did not take -- many of them racist and unethical, if not unlawful -- in places that she never was on the days and times depicted," the suit states, per Variety. "On a number of occasions, Ms. Fairstein is portrayed using inflammatory language, referring to young men of color as 'thugs,' 'animals' and 'b*****ds,' that she never used."
A spokesperson for Netflix tells ET: "Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit. We intend to vigorously defend When They See Us and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series."
Released in May 2019, the four-part, limited series chronicles the subsequent trials involving the wrongful conviction of five teenagers of color -- Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise -- who became known as the "Central Park Five," and their eventual exoneration after years in prison.
In the series, Huffman's Fairstein is portrayed as directing officers to coerce false confessions out of the five teenagers after detectives held them for 30 hours of questioning. The men were later exonerated.