FAIRSTEIN

Palm Beach Daily News - - TODAY -

told the au­di­ence Tues­day dur­ing the O’Ke­effe se­ries’ sea­son-end­ing talk at The So­ci­ety of the Four Arts.

For one thing, un­til the mid-1970s, “the law kept women out of the court­room,” she said.

A rape vic­tim wasn’t al­lowed to tes­tify un­til her ev­i­dence was cor­rob­o­rated by three other sources. Amer­i­can courts didn’t ac­cept DNA ev­i­dence un­til 1989. Fairstein’s and her unit’s pioneer­ing work in­spired Law & Or­der: SVU, now in its 19th sea­son.

She’s a bit en­vi­ous of the TV at­tor­neys. “They can solve ev­ery crime in 43 min­utes on TV,” she said. “It took us a bit longer.”

The first high-pro­file crime Fairstein pros­e­cuted was a 1977 case in­volv­ing a den­tist who was charged with sex­u­ally as­sault­ing his pa­tients while they were un­der se­da­tion. The den­tist claimed the vic­tims’ ac­counts were the re­sult of hal­lu­ci­na­tions caused by the med­i­ca­tion.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors in­stalled a cam­era in the air con­di­tion­ing duct above the den­tist’s treat­ment room. It was the first time that video sur­veil­lance had been used in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the United States, Fairstein said.

A fe­male de­tec­tive with an ab­scessed tooth vol­un­teered to go un­der­cover as a pa­tient as her col­leagues taped footage of the den­tist at­tempt­ing to mo­lest her.

This was long be­fore the #MeToo move­ment turned un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances into main­stream me­dia news.

“We could not get the New York Times to even write about it in 1977, be­cause they said they couldn’t get their read­ers in­ter­ested in it,” Fairstein said. The case was sen­sa­tion­al­ized in the tabloids in­stead.

Fairstein is of two minds when it comes to the #MeToo move­ment.

“I am pleased when any­one who’s been a vic­tim comes for­ward, but I’m hor­ri­fied that the me­dia is the place where a lot of these cases are ad­ju­di­cated,” she said.

She’s also dis­tressed that bor­der­line in­ci­dents of sex­ual mis­con­duct are lumped to­gether with se­ri­ous crimes, she said.

Her 30 years as a pros­e­cu­tor gave her am­ple back­ground for her sec­ond ca­reer. She’s writ­ten 19 books fea­tur­ing Man­hat­tan district at­tor­ney Alexan­dra Cooper, who the au­thor de­scribed as “a younger, thin­ner and blon­der” ver­sion of her­self. A New York land­mark fig­ures as the crime scene in each book.

The se­ries de­buted in 1996, while Fairstein was still em­ployed by the Man­hat­tan District At­tor­ney’s of­fice.

Cooper is hot on the trail of her 20th case. The new book, set at The Rock­e­feller Univer­sity med­i­cal re­search in­sti­tute in New York, will be ti­tled Blood Oath.

“But I don’t have much more now,” the au­thor said. “I haven’t even killed any­one yet.”

Meghan McCarthy / Daily News

Linda Fairstein, for­mer chief of the sex crimes unit of the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Man­hat­tan, spoke Tues­day at The So­ci­ety of the Four Arts.

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