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When They See Us: Central Park Five prosecutor resigns from college post

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Elizabeth LedererImage copyright
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Elizabeth Lederer’s prosecution of five black and Hispanic teenagers for a rape they did not commit was overturned in 2002

The prosecutor of five teenagers convicted for the brutal rape of a female jogger in 1989 – depicted in Netflix’s When They See Us – has left her job at at Columbia Law School.

Lawyer Elizabeth Lederer led the prosecution, but in Ava DuVernay’s series she is seen expressing doubts about their guilt.

The boys, known as the Central Park Five, said police coerced them into confessing and were exonerated in 2002.

They were all black and Hispanic.

Columbia University’s Black Students Organisation had set up a petition asking the school to fire Ms Lederer amid outcry generated by the series.

The New York Times reported that the school’s dean emailed students saying Ms Lederer “decided not to seek reappointment as a lecturer”.

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L-R: Raymond Santana Jr, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Ava DuVernay, Antron Mccray, and Yusef Salaam

She is also a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Gillian Lester, the dean of the school, said Ms Lederer wrote that the Netflix series had “reignited a painful – and vital – national conversation about race, identity, and criminal justice.”

  • Who were the Central Park Five?
  • Viewpoint: A ‘true horror’ story for black Americans

The New York Times said the email included a statement from Ms Lederer saying she had enjoyed her years teaching at Columbia but would not be returning.

She said: “Given the nature of the recent publicity generated by the Netflix portrayal of the Central Park case, it is best for me not to renew my teaching application.”

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Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

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Ava DuVernay, pictured with with Jharrel Jerome, who plays Korey Wise, co-wrote and directed the series

The BBC has contacted Ms Lederer, Columbia Law School and Manhattan district attorney’s office for comment.

When They See Us, a four-part mini-series, has proved hugely popular on Netflix, and in the US the series has been the streaming service’s most-watched show since it debuted. In the UK it is the second-most watched after Black Mirror.


What happened in the Central Park Five case?

The victim, a white 28-year-old investment banker, was severely beaten, raped and left for dead in a bush. She had no memory of it.

Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise – then aged between 14 and 16 – were arrested and interrogated for hours without access to lawyers or their parents.

They confessed to the crime but later recanted, saying their admissions were the result of police coercion.

The 1989 interrogation was conducted by another prosecutor and police.

The convictions were overturned in 2002 after a serial violent offender named Matias Reyes confessed to the attack and said he had acted alone.

A US judge in 2014 approved a $41m (£32m) settlement between the five and New York City.


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Antron McCray (left) and Yusef Salaam (third from left) were photographed leaving court in 1990

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Prosecutors Linda Fairstein (L) and Elizabeth Lederer were photographed leaving court in 1990

This is the second job loss for someone connected with the case since the series was released.

On 4 June, Linda Fairstein, a former US prosecutor involved in the case, resigned from several boards.

She observed the teenagers’ 1989 interrogation, which was conducted by another prosecutor and police. She was Manhattan’s sexual crimes top prosecutor at the time, and has since maintained they were not coerced and defended the authorities’ conduct.

When They See Us inspired a #CancelLindaFairstein movement on social media amid renewed outcry over her role in the case.

On 8 June, Ms Fairstein, who is now a crime novelist and children’s author, was dropped by her publisher.

Two days later she wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Ava DuVernay’s miniseries wrongly portrays them as totally innocent – and defames me in the process.”

Ava Duvernay was asked about Linda Fairstein during an interview by Oprah Winfrey, and said: “I think that it’s important that people be held accountable.”

But she added: “She is part of a system that’s not broken, it was built to be this way… the real thing that we are all trying to do.. is to be able to say, ‘Go America…Let’s do this. Let’s change this.’

“You can’t change what you don’t know, so we came together to show you what you may not know.”

“That’s our goal.”


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The Strokes: A tale of two Fabrizio Morettis

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Fabrizio Morettis: Rock star (left) and art dealer and collector

The name Fabrizio Moretti will ring a bell with music fans of a rock ‘n’ roll persuasion.

So too though, it turns out, with those who have an interest in Renaissance art.

In one of the more intriguing career moves of recent times, the 39-year-old drummer from The Strokes has teamed up with his Italian art dealer namesake, 45, to put a fresh spin on some classic paintings and sculptures.

Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti: In Passing, sees the pair join forces to create a series of immersive installations, showcasing a selection of “old masters” at Sotheby’s New York.

The exhibition is intended to re-introduce the works – which will then be auctioned off – in a more contemporary way.

“They approached me and said ‘did you know about this art collector?'” explains the younger Moretti.

“And I said I did because he used to have [a gallery] on 80-something street [in New York] and I would pass it and be like ‘Hey, I recognise that man!’

“They said: ‘Maybe there’s something to you guys collaborating.’ And I thought about it for a while and I figured that if it stayed at just me coming up with a playlist or something for it – I thought maybe that would be a little uninteresting at my end.'”

He adds: “But if they gave me the opportunity to get my hands dirty, it would be totally worth it, and they gave me the opportunity.”

The musician, whose lifelong love of art began with his obsession for drawing endless pictures of horses as a kid, jokingly tells the BBC how they then let him “go crazy” in one of the world’s largest brokers of fine art.

“They showed me all the forgeries that they have, and how they sell for millions of dollars.”

He laughs as he says: “Like: ‘This is Picasso… Oh, it’s actually Fred Picasso!’.”

“‘He sold this painting twice!’,” he jokes.

[Sotheby’s made it clear to me they understood Fabrizio was joking.]

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Sotheby’s

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Fab’s fave: Taddeo Di Bartolo’s The Burial

The art works – including the rock star and former art student’s own personal favourite, the “super graphic and really stylised” Burial by Taddeo Di Bartolo – will be freshly viewed through the prism of his new installation, which is intended to work as an interactive puzzle.

(Almost like a classic art equivalent of what the Black Mirror producers tried with Bandersnatch, let’s say.)

“It’s almost like I’m building this maze so that the paintings could be this exclamation mark at the end of these strange moments, where you realise you’re in control and the art is revealed to you in different segments, because you’re swaying from side to side and it’s behind the wall,” he goes on.

“I was intrigued by the idea of creating this path that limits the way that you can perceive it, but also hands you control by limiting it. You know, since you’re the only person that can stand next to this painting in a certain particular spot, you’re also the only person that has ownership of it at that very moment.”

Is this (how you say) it?

The Italian Moretti said in a statement he was similarly “intrigued to collaborate with another Fabrizio, who shares my name,” noting him as “a respected visual artist and musician, who excels across the disciplines – much like the artists featured in the exhibition”.

Most importantly, however, the project has also helped the Brazil-born New York-raised Moretti, whose father is Italian, to say his own first name correctly.

“I’m really bad at pronunciation in Italian,” says the sticksman, “So much so that the other Fabrizio corrected me on my own name!

“It’s wild, at 39-years-old to be like: ‘Oh, I was wrong all these years’.”

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Fabrizio Moretti (left) cosies up to his bandmates, The Strokes, with a beer in 2001

Once the works are sold, Moretti (the drummer, that is – we hope you’re keeping up) will then get back behind the drum kit for a special New Year’s Eve hometown New York gig with the band in Brooklyn.

The seminal five-piece performed just the once in the UK in 2019, battling some sound issues to deliver a crowd-pleasing headline set at All Points East festival in east London. He says he wants to return to these shores next year, too, but in a much more intimate setting.

  • When New York was ‘a safe space for debauchery’

“To be perfectly honest with you,” he says, “I would like to come back there and play a smaller place. I would like to play maybe a few shows at smaller places because as fun as doing those festivals can be, they’re also… You know, I want to have more of an interaction with the specific Strokes fans, you know what I mean?

“I feel we owe a lot to them. Especially you guys there in the UK who basically started our lives as musicians and we’re very thankful for that.”

‘Stop and smell the roses’

So does he miss those carefree days of playing Manhattan dive bars? Before fame, big festivals (and eventually the art world) came a-knocking?

“Yes. Increasingly as I get older,” he admits, “because I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t pay enough attention as it was happening.

“Things just started to fall like dominoes and moments started to turn into other moments and all of a sudden you’re playing The Mercury Lounge (in New York), and the next minute you’re flying to England and it just seems like I needed to stop and smell the roses a bit more.

“So I tried to look back on it and meditate on it, and see if I could remember anything that stuck in my subconscious. Bring it up to the fore.”

Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti: In Passing runs from 15-18 December at Sotheby’s New York, with the auction going live on 18 December.


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‘God bless Birmingham’, says Banksy as artwork appears in city

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The Banksy artwork shows Ryan on a bench being “pulled” by two reindeer

Elusive artist Banksy has created new artwork in Birmingham, a festive-themed piece highlighting homelessness.

The artwork features in a film on Instagram that shows a man named Ryan on a bench being “pulled” by two reindeer painted on a brick wall in the city’s Jewellery Quarter.

It has been viewed over 1m times since it was posted earlier.

Hours later though, the work was defaced by a vandal who sprayed red noses on the reindeer.

Barriers had been installed, but the person managed to jump them, BBC Midlands Today reporter Ben Sidwell tweeted.

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A vandal sprayed the artwork with red noses on Monday evening

Unveiling the work, Banksy praised the generosity of people who gave Ryan food and drink while they filmed.

The post said: “God bless Birmingham. In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter – without him ever asking for anything.”

Pete Smith’s jewellery studio and workshop Vault 88 is located on Vyse Street, opposite the artwork.

He saw it when he arrived for work on Friday and said it had been attracting a lot of attention since the Instagram post.

“The world and his mother is outside,” he said.

“There’s been people taking pictures of themselves on the bench. It’s brilliant. It’s very, very clever.”

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Visitors have been recreating the artwork at the scene

He added the artist’s praise was “good for Brummies”, and showed “they care”.

Latest news from the West Midlands

Luke Crane from the Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District said it was now a priority to protect the artwork.

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Media caption‘God bless Birmingham’, says Banksy as artwork appears in city

“We are very keen to make sure it is a part of our community and not something that is taken away,” he said.

“I think it comes at a great time of year – we obviously didn’t know it was coming, but what a great time.

“And it’s obviously about giving at a time of need for the homelessness that we have in these areas, and it’s something that we’ve been working in partnership with the council and other organisations to try and tackle, so it’s great to see it in our area.”

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British stars nominated for Golden Globe awards

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Taron Egerton appears as Elton John in RocketmanImage copyright
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Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman

British stars are well represented in this year’s Golden Globe nominations, with Rocketman’s Taron Egerton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge up for awards.

Waller-Bridge is up for a lead actress prize for Fleabag, while her Irish co-star Andrew Scott is also nominated.

Marriage Story, a Netflix production, is the most nominated film, having received six citations in all.

The Irishman, another Netflix film, and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood have five nominations each.

The Crown, Chernobyl and Unbelievable lead the way on the TV side of things, having received four nominations apiece.

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Johansson and Driver play a divorcing couple in Marriage Story

Marriage Story and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman are both up for best film drama, as are Joker, The Two Popes and Sam Mendes’ World War I epic 1917.

Tarantino’s film is up for best musical or comedy, alongside Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Rocketman and Dolemite Is My Name.

  • Golden Globes: 2020 nominees in full

Scorsese, Mendes and Tarantino are up for the best film director award, with Joker’s Todd Phillips and Parasite’s Bong Jong Ho completing the all-male line-up.

The South Korean film-maker is also up for best screenplay for Parasite – a dark comedy about his homeland’s social divides that is also up for best foreign language film.

Christian Bale is up for the best actor in a film drama award for Ford v Ferrari – released as Le Mans ’66 in the UK.

Bale’s competition includes fellow Brit Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes, as well as Antonio Banderas, Adam Driver and Joaquin Phoenix for Pain and Glory, Marriage Story and Joker respectively.

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The second series of Fleabag gets three nominations in all

Daniel Craig is up for best actor in a film comedy or musical for Knives Out, as is Egerton for Elton John biopic Rocketman and Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name.

The best actress in a film comedy or musical shortlist includes Dame Emma Thompson for Late Night and The Farewell’s Awkwafina.

Oscar favourite

The best actress in a film drama shortlist includes Britain’s Cynthia Erivo for Harriet, a biopic of anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman.

Erivo’s competition includes Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story, Saoirse Ronan for Little Women and Judy’s Renee Zellweger – widely considered to be the favourite for both this award and 2020’s best actress Oscar.

I’m Gonna Love Me Again, a new track written for Rocketman by Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin, is up for the best original film song award.

So is Beautiful Ghosts, written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber for the upcoming film version of Cats.

It is the only nomination for Cats, which has been left out of the major categories despite reports it was screened for voters at the last minute.

Swift expressed delight on Twitter that “one of the most fun, fulfilling creative experiences” in her life had been recognised by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).

Into the Unknown from Frozen 2 and Beyonce’s song Spirit from Disney’s The Lion King also make the cut.

Both films are up for best animated film – an award The Lion King will not be eligible for at the Oscars or Baftas, as it was not submitted for consideration.

Royal roles

Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter and Tobias Menzies are all up for awards for their royal roles in the latest series of The Crown.

Colman is up for best actress in a TV drama, where her competition includes Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer and the stars of Apple TV series The Morning Show – Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Dame Helen Mirren, Kit Harington, Emily Watson and Sacha Baron Cohen are among other British actors who are up for TV prizes.

Harington’s consideration for best actor in a TV drama is the only nomination for the final series of fantasy saga Game of Thrones.

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PA Media

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Menzies, Colman and Bonham Carter play Prince Philip, The Queen and Princess Margaret in The Crown

Overall there are 27 Britons in contention for the awards, which recognise both film and television.

Netflix – the streaming giant behind Marriage Story, The Irishman, The Two Popes and The Crown – has 34 nominations in all – 17 each for film and TV.

HBO have 15 TV nominations, four of them coming for their mini-series about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Ricky Gervais will return to host the awards on 5 January, having previously hosted them in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016.

Tom Hanks will receive a lifetime achievement award at the event, following in the footsteps of such recent honourees as Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey.

Hanks is also nominated for a best supporting actor prize for his role as children’s TV star Mr Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.

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