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HBO Doc Shows Why DA Needed Exiting Sex Crimes Unit Chief Friel's Division in Strauss-Kahn Case

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 3, 2011 at 11:42AM

There's no question that my reaction to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case was influenced by having seen Lisa Jackson's Sex Crimes Unit, which played at the Los Angeles Film Festival before beginning its run on HBO June 20. Jackson got unprecedented access to the respected Unit of the New York District Attorney's office that specializes in sex crimes. You see how the attorneys work under unit chief Lisa Friel, who unexpectedly announced last week that she will be leaving the division.
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Thompson on Hollywood

There's no question that my reaction to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case was influenced by having seen Lisa Jackson's Sex Crimes Unit, which played at the Los Angeles Film Festival before beginning its run on HBO June 20. Jackson got unprecedented access to the respected Unit of the New York District Attorney's office that specializes in sex crimes. You see how the attorneys work under unit chief Lisa Friel, who unexpectedly announced last week that she will be leaving the division.

Wouldn't you if your boss snatched away the highest profile rape case to come your way, one that your division was particularly equipped to handle? This huge loss for the NY D.A's office comes at a time when the NYT is questioning why DA Cyrus Vance decided not to put the delicate Strauss-Kahn case through the Sex Crimes Unit, which has considerable expertise in this area and knows where the pitfalls lie. Vance wanted publicity, and by jove he got it. More details and a trailer for the HBO film is below.

Dana Harris of indieWIRE has been tracking this story and has posted Friel's letter to her friends and colleagues explaining her departure. Friel says that she told her higher-ups this past week that she would be looking for a new job and leaving her post in September, and would continue to work in the unit (but not as chief) if she did not land anything in the private sector by then.

The fact remains that Vance and Co. would have been a lot better off if Friel and her team had handled this investigation, which the French have protested. Now the case may be falling apart.

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Video, TV, Los Angeles Film Festival, Documentaries, Trailers, HBO


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.