Sleepers is a novel about four boys who are sexually abused at a school for boys, and later exact revenge on their tormentors. It was made into a film starring Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt, and Robert De Niro, among others. However there is a lot of skepticism about whether the story is actually true.
In the book, Mr. Carcaterra writes about himself (played in the film by Jason Patric) and three young friends living in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan in the 1960's. After they stage a street prank that unintentionally leaves a man seriously injured, the book says, the four are sent to an upstate juvenile detention center, where they are brutalized and sexually assaulted.
Years after their release, two of the boys, now professional killers, accidentally encounter a former guard who took part in the assaults. The two promptly kill the guard in a restaurant, but to save them from prison, a third member of the old foursome, an assistant district attorney (played by Brad Pitt), privately manipulates the evidence in their behalf. He needs the help of a popular Roman Catholic priest (Robert De Niro), who is asked to perjure himself on behalf of the killers, whom he has known since childhood.
Strong challenges to the book's story were raised by the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and School on the West Side of Manhattan (which Mr. Carcaterra attended), where priests expressed outrage about the author's assertions, and by the Manhattan District Attorney's office. The office said there were no records of a case like the one described in the book.
—"'Sleepers' Debate Renewed: How True Is a 'True Story'?", New York Times, Oct. 22, 1996
The author, Lorenzo Carcaterra, claims it is a true story, and shrugs off the skepticism.
Q: Is SLEEPERS a true story or not?
A: There will be many who question this. First of all, names, dates and places were changed. Second, institutions raised questions which I have refused to answer. The bottom line is -- it is a true story and it is my story. Those who chose to believe it have my heart. Those who chose not to believe it -- that's for them to decide.
—Lorenzo Carcaterra, in a former FAQ on his website, via the Internet Archive
- Was the author sentenced to a school for troubled youth?
- Was the author sexually abused at that school?
- Did boys at the school murder a guard who had abused them?
- Were those boys later acquitted of the murder?
- Was the acquittal aided by a prosecutor in on the job?
- Was the acquittal aided by false testimony from an authority figure?