The investigation into Arnold Friedman’s life started after a federal sting operation, when he received a magazine of child pornography from the Netherlands by mail. In searching his Great Neck, New York home, investigators found a collection of child pornography. After learning that Friedman taught children computer classes from his home, local police began to suspect him of abusing his students.
In police interviews, some of the children Friedman taught stated Friedman played bizarre sex games with them during their computer classes. Jarecki interviewed some of these children himself; some stated that they had been in the room with other children alleging abuse, and that nothing had happened. The film portrayed police investigative procedures as the genesis of a “witch-hunt” in the Friedmans’ community.
The Friedmans took home-videos while Arnold Friedman (and, later, his son Jesse) awaited trial. They were allowed to stay at home in order to prepare for court. The pictures were not made with publishing in mind, but as a way to record what was happening in their lives. The movie shows much of this footage; family dinners, conversations, and arguments. Arnold’s wife quickly decided that her husband was indeed guilty and advised him to confess and protect their son.
Arnold Friedman pleaded guilty to multiple charges of sodomy and sexual abuse. According to the Friedman family, he confessed in the hopes that his son would be spared prison time. Jesse Friedman later confessed as well, but now claims he did so to avoid being sent to prison for life. He said in mitigation that his father had molested him. Arnold Friedman admitted to molesting two boys, but not those who attended his computer classes. He is also quoted as admitting that, when he was 13, he had sex with his younger brother, Howard, who was eight years old at the time of the abuse; Howard Friedman has said he does not recall this.
Arnold Friedman committed suicide in prison in 1995, leaving a $250,000 life insurance benefit to his son. Jesse Friedman was released from prison in 2001 after serving 13 years of his sentence.