Four men –– three sons of a prominent Rabbi –– were arrested Thursday for attempting to intimidate a young sex abuse victim to move to Israel or drop her case against a Rabbi whom she claims molested her.
The NY Post reports Abraham Rubin, 48, accused of being the ringleader, offered the now 17-year-old woman and her 24-year-old boyfriend, who runs a Kosher restaurant, $500,000 to recant allegations against Nechemya Weberman, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.
“He has no regard for the system,” Assistant District Attorney Josh Hanshaft said of Rubin, the Post writes. “He thumbed his nose at the system.”
The girl’s boyfriend, Hershy Deutsch, did the exact opposite. He refused to accept the money and instead went to the system, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported, according to CBS news.
Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community member Hertzka Berger in court.
Another indictment unsealed on Thursday said Joseph, Jacob and Hertzka Berger attempted to pressure the girl and her boyfriend to stop cooperating with law enforcement, Reuters reports. The brothers, sons of a prominent Rabbi who oversees Kosher certification of Williamsburg restaurants, allegedly told the boyfriend, who is also a witness in the abuse case, that his restaurant would lose its kosher certification if he did not cave to their demands.
When the witness would not cave in to their pressure, Jacob Berger made good on the threat. He went to the restaurant and physically tore down the certification, the indictment alleges.
“They have gone and destroyed property, they made threatening phone calls,” Hanshaft said. “They do what they have to do for the case to go away.”
Sexual abuse over three year period
screengrab from video
Rabbi Nechemya Weberman of Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community accused of sexual misconduct with a child.
Weberman,53, a Rabbi in the Satmar Hasidic community, an ultra-conservative Orthodox Jewish sect based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is awaiting trial on 88 counts of sexual misconduct, including oral sex with a child younger than 13 years old, charges which he ardently denies.
According to The New York Times, the girl was just 12 years old when her school suggested that she get counseling by Weberman –– an unlicensed psychotherapist –– who charged $150 an hour.
The school told her parents they had a choice: Weberman's therapy or their daughter would be expelled from school. They chose the former.
But according to the allegations, instead of entering therapy she entered what seemed to be nightmare. Not only did Weberman repeatedly sexually molest her during therapy sessions over three years, from ages 12 to 15, but she alleges that he made sure it stayed a secret: if she told anyone she would be expelled from school, according to a relative, the Times reports.
The girl changed schools where she saw a licensed therapist. When she told him what had happened at her previous school, he reported her allegations to the police. In 2011, Weberman was arrested and the intimidation began, culminating in yesterday's charges.
The community stands behind accused
The Guardian reports that around fifty members of the Satmar sect, friends and family of the newly charged, filled the Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday as the four men walked in handcuffed.
"They all deny the allegations. They are obviously going to be fighting these charges vehemently," Bruce Wenger, Hertzka Berger's attorney, told CBS 2′s John Slattery.
“The community stands behind them 100 percent,” said Michael Elbaz, a defense lawyer for Joseph Berger.
It is the same community that held a large rally last month to raise funds for the 53-year-old accused child molester’s legal defense.
screengrab from video
Members of Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community filing into court for arraignment on June 21, 2012
According to the Guardian, Chaim Friedman, a supporter of Rubin, said he has a pretty good idea on why the arrest took place: politics. "It's a political game playing by Hynes. Because the accusation is Hynes isn't doing his job he wants to show he's arresting people. It's all belony."
These comments are a stark contrast to public comments in recent weeks that accused Hynes of caring more about his position as an elected official than the constituents he was elected to serve.
For decades, the Guardian writes, Hynes and community leaders have hushed up child abuse allegations, with Hynes accused of minimizing prosecutions and for refusing to name alleged sex offenders in the Orthodox community under pressure from the rabbis with their powerful bloc vote.
Worse than world of organized crime
screengrab from video
Joseph Berger a member of Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community in court.
But Hynes says they're wrong.
“Intimidation of victims and witnesses in sex abuse cases in the Orthodox community is what has made prosecuting these cases so difficult," said Hynes in a released statement.
He claimed that by protecting the name of the offenders he was really protecting the victim adding that the intimidation of witnesses in the Orthodox community is "worse than in the world of organized crime."
“If you’re dealing with organized crime, which is another group of intimidators, at least I can offer victims of the mafia or a witness who’s threatened or intimidated an opportunity to go into witness protection,” Hynes said.
"But in this group of people,who live and are part of this culture, being removed is impossible," he said.
Witness intimidation task force
The indictments of Rubin and Joseph, Jacob and Hertzka Berger are the first cases to result from the formation of a task force that District Attorney Hynes recently put together to address witness intimidation issues in sex crime cases.
It's the first prosecution in 20 years in which defendants are charged with intimidating witnesses in a sex abuse case.
Reuters says the task force was formed in May in response to media reports that the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities regularly hid cases of child sexual abuse from the authorities.
"Victims were afraid to come forward because they would be threatened and shunned in their communities," he said.
"Hopefully, these indictments serve as an example that we will not tolerate individuals who try to interfere with the pursuit of justice.”