When They See Us: Linda Fairstein sues Netflix over ‘unethical villain’ portrayal

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Ava DuVernay and some of the cast of When They See Us

Netflix and director Ava DuVernay are being sued by former prosecutor Linda Fairstein over how she was portrayed in When They See Us.

The series tells the story of five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of rape in 1989 – their case drew national attention in the US and they became known as the Central Park Five.

Linda Fairstein was in charge of sex crimes in Manhattan at the time.

But she says the show falsely portrayed her as a “racist, unethical villain”.

The former prosecutor, played by Felicity Huffman, has a big role in the Emmy-winning series.

When They See Us shows Linda as the woman in charge of the investigation into the case and appears in three of the four episodes.

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Linda Farstein was dropped by her book publishers after When They See Us was released by Netflix

The defamation lawsuit alleges that each time the character appears her portrayal was “deliberately calculated” to create a “clear and unmistakable villain to be targeted for hatred and vilification for what happened to The Five”.

After the show was released Linda Fairstein, a best-selling crime novelist, was dropped by her publisher and agent, and the lawsuit claims she’s also had speaking appearances cancelled, as well as losing a “significant number” of legal consulting jobs.

It claims her reputation as a prosecutor has been “sullied if not destroyed”.

Netflix has responded – describing the lawsuit as “frivolous” and “without merit”.

“We intend to vigorously defend When They See Us and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series,” it said in a statement.

Who were the Central Park Five?

One spring evening in 1989, a group of around 30 teenagers were hanging out in Central Park, New York.

Some of them were causing serious trouble – including badly hurting others in the park and harassing homeless people.

The same night, a 28-year-old white woman, Trisha Meili, had been out jogging in the park.

She was found beaten and raped and was in a coma for 12 days – and in that time, the case of the Central Park Jogger would grip New York City.

Five young black and Hispanic men, aged between 14 and 16, would be found guilty and jailed for the crime.

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Media captionRaymond Santana was wrongfully convicted along with four others of raping a jogger in New York

They became known as the Central Park Five.

But they never committed the crime.

Read the true story behind When They See Us

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