Ex-Prosecutor in Central Park Five Case Sues Netflix and Ava DuVernay over 'When They See Us'

Linda Fairstein, whose office oversaw the case, claims the four-part series portrayed her "as a racist, unethical villain"

Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein has filed a lawsuit against Netflix, director Ava DuVernay and co-writer Attica Locke over When They See Us, according to multiple reports.

Per Variety, Fairstein, whose office oversaw the Central Park Five case, claims in the suit filed Wednesday that she was defamed in the four-part limited series. It told the story of the five Harlem teens wrongfully prosecuted in the 1980s for the assault and rape of a white female jogger in New York City’s Central Park. They were later exonerated and reached a settlement with the city of New York in 2014.

“In the film series, which Defendants have marketed and promoted as a true story, Defendants depict Ms. Fairstein — using her true name — as a racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost,” the reported suit alleges.

Netflix called the suit “frivolous” and “without merit.”

“We intend to vigorously defend When They See Us and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series,” a spokesperson for the streaming service said to PEOPLE.

PEOPLE has reached out to DuVernay, 47, and Locke, 46, for comment.

Ava Duvernay and Linda Fairstein
Amy Sussman/Getty; : Peter Kramer/NBC/ NBCUniversal via Getty

Fairstein was portrayed by Felicity Huffman in the series. Fairstein reportedly alleges in the lawsuit that the script made up fictional dialogue in order to mischaracterize her as racist.

Andrew Miltenberg, Fairstein’s attorney, told Variety that his client was depicted in a false and defamatory way in almost every scene in which she appears, across three episodes.

The Emmy-winning series, which spans 25 years and tells the story from the perspective of the five men, was released in May 2019 to glowing reception.

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