Novelist and former prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who is facing renewed backlash over her role in the wrongful convictions of the Central Park Five, has resigned as trustee at her alma mater, Vassar College.
On Tuesday, victim services nonprofit Safe Horizon confirmed Fairstein had also stepped down from its board.
The investigator-turned-mystery author has come under fire following the release of the new Netflix series “When They See Us,” which dramatizes the story of the five Black and Latino teens wrongfully convicted in the rape of a female jogger in 1989. Fairstein, who headed up the Manhattan D.A.’s sex crimes unit at the time, was instrumental in coercing the false confessions that landed the teens in prison.
The best-selling author is now scrambling to go off the grid, shuttering her social media accounts and abandoning her posts on two charity boards as the outrage against her mounts.
“I am told that Ms. Fairstein felt that, given the recent wide spread 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, Vassar College President, wrote in a statement posted online.
“The events of the last few days have underscored how the history of racial and ethnic tensions in this country continue to deeply influence us today,” she continued. “My hope is that our continued debate and discord fosters a community of profound learning and humanity.”
Late Tuesday, a representative with Safe Horizon confirmed to Atlanta Black Star that Fairstein, 71, had resigned from its board of directors, on which she’d served for more than 20 years.
The New York-based nonprofit aids victims of abuse and sexual assault, and serves a majority-minority clientele.
“After careful consideration, Linda Fairstein has made the difficult decision to resign from our board of directors,” the organization said in a statement posted to Facebook. “We thank her for her decades of pioneering work on behalf of victims of sexual assault and abuse.”
Fairstein’s resignation comes after staffers and board members at the nonprofit learned of her ties to the Central Park Five case and demanded that she be removed. According to TMZ, which first reported the turmoil, most staffers were unaware Fairstein was even on the board of directors.
Tempers flared as employees pressed the organization’s leadership on why the now–author was allowed on a board that predominately serves Blacks and other racial minorities.
Fairstein, 71, faced similar backlash earlier this week when “When You See Us” viewers flooded online retailers with demands to remove the author’s book collection from its shelves. Critics also sparked the movement #CancelLindaFairstein on social media.
The Central Park Five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — each spent between 6 to 13 years in prison for a rape they did not commit, thanks in large part to Fairstein and other investigators assigned to the case. All five were exonerated after a serial rapist confessed to the crime in 2002, a development backed by DNA evidence.
The group was awarded a $41 million settlement from the city of New York in 2014.
Despite all this, Fairstein — like President Donald Trump — has refused to accept the men’s innocence and recently called Netflix’s depiction of the case a “basket of lies.” Before the backlash, Fairstein defended the handling of the case in a column for the New York Law Journal.
“The confessions were not coerced,” she wrote in July. “The questioning was respectful, dignified, carried out according to the letter of the law and with sensitivity to the young age of the men.”