Central Park 5 prosecutor resigns from nonprofit boards

FILE- In this March 26, 1988 file photo, prosecutor Linda Fairstein, left, is shown during a news conference in New York. Fairstein was the top Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor when five teenagers were wrongly charged with the 1989 rape and beating of a woman jogging in New York's Central Park. Since the release of the Netflix series "When They See Us," a miniseries that dramatizes the events surrounding the trial, she has resigned from at least two nonprofit boards as backlash from the case intensified. Seated at the table from left are Fairstein, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and Ellen Levin, whose daughter Jennifer Levin was murdered in 1986. (AP Photo/Charles Wenzelberg, File)

A former prosecutor in the Central Park Five case has resigned from at least two nonprofit boards as backlash intensified following the release of the Netflix series "When They See Us," a miniseries that dramatizes the events surrounding the trial

NEW YORK — A former prosecutor in the Central Park Five case has resigned from at least two nonprofit boards as backlash intensified following the release of the Netflix series "When They See Us," a miniseries that dramatizes the events surrounding the trial.

On Tuesday, the president of Vassar College posted a letter on its website saying that Linda Fairstein had resigned as a Board of Trustees member.

"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," Elizabeth H. Bradley wrote.

The victims-services agency, Safe Horizon, also confirmed Fairstein's resignation on Tuesday, thanking her for "her decades of pioneering work on behalf of victims of sexual assault and abuse."

Messages requesting comment from Fairstein were not immediately returned.

Fairstein was the top Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor when five teenagers were charged with the 1989 rape and beating of a female investment banker jogging in Central Park.

The attack became a national symbol of urban mayhem at a time when New York City's murder rate was nearing its historical peak.

The teens said they were coerced into confessing their involvement in the attack. Their convictions were overturned in 2002 after convicted murderer and serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to committing the crime alone, and DNA linked him to it.

Fairstein observed the boys' 1989 interrogation, conducted by another prosecutor and police. She didn't personally try the case.

Since its collapse, she has denied the teens were coerced and has defended authorities' conduct in the case, explored in a 2013 documentary by Ken Burns.

The city reached a roughly $41 million settlement with the five the next year, while not admitting any wrongdoing.

In an interview with the New York Post published on Tuesday, Fairstein said she also resigned from the boards of God's Love We Deliver and Joyful Heart Foundation, a group founded by actress Mariska Hargitay that helps survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

Messages requesting comment from these groups were not immediately returned.

Fairstein told the Post she was forced to act due to the "mob-mentality reaction" to the Netflix series, which has sparked a #CancelLindaFairstein movement and calls to withhold funding.

"Each of these organizations does great work," she said. "It's so foolish of the bullies to punish the charities. Totally pig-headed and stupid."

Last year, the Mystery Writers of America withdrew a major honor from Fairstein, known for her best-selling novels featuring prosecutor Alex Cooper, after other authors condemned her role in the Central Park Five case.

___

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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