Linda Fairstein Settles 4-Year-Long Lawsuit with Netflix Over Central Park 5 Docuseries

Linda Fairstein — the prosecutor in the Central Park Five case — has settled her lawsuit against Netflix just one week before the case was set to go to trial

Published Time: 05.06.2024 - 04:31:14 Modified Time: 05.06.2024 - 04:31:14

Linda Fairstein — the prosecutor in the Central Park Five case — has settled her lawsuit against Netflix just one week before the case was set to go to trial.

On Tuesday, Fairstein released a statement to announce a settlement in the case, which will include a $1 million donation to The Innocence Project from Netflix, and a disclaimer to appear at the beginning of the four-part limited seriesWhen They See Us, reading: “While the motion picture is inspired by actual events and persons, certain characters, incidents, locations, dialogue, and names are fictionalized for the purposes of dramatization.”

Fairstein will not receive settlement money, she explained, "This is what this case was all about — not about ‘winning’ or about any financial restitution, but about my reputation and that of my colleagues."

“It was about setting the historical record straight that the villainous caricature invented by the defendants and portrayed on screen was not me,” she claimed.

Netflix also confirmed news of the settlement in a joint statement, obtained by PEOPLE, with series director Ava DuVernay, Fairstein and co-writer Attica Locke.

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

DuVernay also reacted to the news in her own lengthy statement on X (formerly known as Twitter).

“Days before my legal team and I were scheduled to refute Linda Fairstein’s defamation lawsuit in front of a New York City jury, she had her husband call to pull the plug,” she alleged in part.“After years of legal wrangling and millions of dollars spent, she 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,” she claimed. “The deal she proposed involved her receiving a cash payout, as well as having a disclaimer at the top of the series When They See You on Netflix which would state that everything to do with her in the show was fabricated."

She alleged that Fairstein “painted herself as the victim, as someone who has been wronged by our storytelling in When They See You.”

“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 alleged. “She claimed that the series resulted in the loss of her publishing contract and other positions of power sh -

e’d held. When They See Us did not get Linda Fairstein cancelled. Linda Fairstein’s own actions and words are responsible for everything that she is experiencing.” 

She claimed Fairstein “decided that she was not willing to face a jury of her peers” as the trial approached, alleging, “It’s a phenomenon that often happens with bullies. When you stand up to them, unafraid, they often take their ball and go home.”

The news comes several months after a judge denied Netflix’s request for summary judgment in its favor, indicating that the docuseries included scenes that could not be proved by evidence and there was enough reason to believe a jury could rule it defamatory.

“The defendants sought to portray me as the Series' villain and, in doing so, ‘reverse- engineered plot points to attribute actions, responsibilities and viewpoints’ to me that were not mine, nor were they supported by a single piece of evidence in the defendants' so-called substantial research materials,” Fairstein said in her statement. 

“Documents and testimony in the public record since that motion was filed, and recently unsealed, demonstrate that the scenes that were the subject of my lawsuit were 'invented' by the filmmakers, and that the defendants intentionally and viciously targeted me when marketing and promoting the Series," she concluded.

In March 2020, Fairstein sued Netflix, directorDuVernayand co-writer Locke for defamation after they released the 2019 docuseries. When They See Us is about the five Black teens — dubbed the Central Park Five — who were falsely prosecuted and later exonerated for the rape and assault of a white woman jogger in New York City.

“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 alleged.

At the time, Netflix responded to Fairstein's claims, calling them “frivolous” and “without merit,” and vowing to defend DuVernay and Locke.

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As for public reception of the series, it was met with rave reviews, even winning Emmys for its depiction of the historic 1980s case. 

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