Central Park Five Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Loses Book Deal After ‘When They See Us’ Revives Controversy

Paul HawthorneGetty Images

Linda Fairstein turned her time as a U.S. prosecutor into a successful career as a crime novelist, but now that is in jeopardy after the Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, has revived controversy over Fairstein’s role in the Central Park Five case.

Fairstein was the lead prosecutor of a group of black and Hispanic teenagers prosecuted for the 1989 rape and beating of a female jogger in New York’s Central Park. Fairstein’s role in the case was featured in the Netflix series, which sparked an outcry against the prosecutor who helped to put the innocent teens behind bars.

After a viral campaign online to #CancelLindaFairstein, the former prosecutor’s book publisher responded by ending her contract, the BBC reported. Dutton, which works under the Penguin Random House umbrella, announced that it had cut its relationship with the former New York prosecutor.

“I can confirm that Linda Fairstein and Dutton have decided to terminate their relationship. We have no further comment,” Dutton Publicity Director Amanda Walker told the BBC.

The report noted that the 72-year-old Fairstein has seen other impacts in her professional life, as she has been forced to resign from at least two non-profit boards on which she served.

Linda Fairstein had written 20 crime novels in the last three decades under the publishing house. Fairstein’s personal website noted that she had been on book tours as recently as April.

Fairstein had been criticized with pushing forward in the case against the teens, who were all between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time they were accused. The boys were arrested and questioned for hours without access to lawyers or their parents, the BBC noted. The teens confessed during the investigation, but later recanted and accused police of coercing them to confess, the report noted. Fairstein was present at the interrogation.

The teenagers were cleared in 2002 after a serial rapist confessed to the attack and said he acted alone. By then, the Central Park Five had already spent years prison. They were later awarded a $4 million settlement in 2014.

The Netflix feature has renewed interest in the case and the role Donald Trump played. Then a New York City real estate tycoon, Trump was especially fervent in calling for the teens to be prosecuted, even taking out a full-page newspaper ad calling for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York specifically for their case.

Trump continued to stand by his belief that the boys were guilty, even after the convictions were overturned.