Central Park 5 Filmmaker Ava DuVernay Rips New York Prosecutor After They Settle Lawsuit

Linda Fairstein and Ava DuVernay.
Linda Fairstein and Ava DuVernay. Getty Images

The filmmaker behind Netflix’s “When They See Us,” about the now-exonerated Central Park 5, called the prosecutor in the 1989 case a bully after the two settled a lawsuit.

“After years of legal wrangling and millions of dollars spent, [former prosecutor Linda Fairstein] walked away with no payment to her or her lawyers of any kind, rather than face cross examination before a New York jury as to her conduct and character,” Ava DuVernay, who created, wrote and directed the Netflix series, told Deadline. “I believe that Linda Fairstein was responsible for the investigation and prosecution of the Central Park Jogger case that resulted in the wrongful conviction of five innocent Black and Brown boys.”

Four years ago, Fairstein sued DuVernay and Netflix for defamation, saying that Felicity Huffman’s portrayal of her in the miniseries made her look like a “racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.” The trial was set to go to court June 10, but the parties settled just a few days before.

“The parties announce that they have resolved this lawsuit,” a statement from Netflix, Fairstein and DuVernay read, Deadline reported earlier this month. “Netflix will donate $1 million to the Innocence Project. Ms. Fairstein will not receive any money as part of this settlement.”

In 1989, Fairstein led the prosecution against Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise, who were convicted for the rape of a woman who was jogging in Central Park. The five became known as the Central Park 5, but were later exonerated when serial rapist and murdered Matias Reyes confessed to the rape while in jail and DNA evidence supported his confession. The group then became known as the Exonerated 5 and their names were cleared in 2014.

DuVernay continued her statement, saying that Fairstein “painted herself as the victim.”

“She has suggested that the false story she tells about these wrongfully incarcerated men is the only right one, and that their experiences are not worth being heard or believed. She claimed that the series resulted in the loss of her publishing contract and other positions of power she’d held,” she said. ”‘When They See Us’ did not get Linda Fairstein canceled. Linda Fairstein’s own actions and words are responsible for everything that she is experiencing.”

“I hope that one day Linda Fairstein can come to terms with the part she played in this miscarriage of justice and finally accept responsibility,” she added before thanking Netflix for its donation to the Innocence Project. “I continue to believe, respect and salute Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Councilman Yusef Salaam, who represents their beloved New York City’s 9th district, Harlem.”

In a statement, Fairstein said the decision to settle was “not an easy one” and that the case was about her reputation.

“It was about setting the historical record straight that the villainous caricature invented by the defendants and portrayed on screen was not me. That truth will be reinforced every time a viewer goes to watch this series ever again due to Netflix’s agreement in the settlement to place a disclaimer at the front of the series.”