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News Of Abuse Arrests Hailed, Questioned
Brooklyn DA’s policy of not identifying those charged and arrested coming under scrutiny.
Special To The Jewish Week
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The recently released news that the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has arrested 85 members of Brooklyn haredi communities on sex abuse charges is being hailed in some quarters, but it has also led to many questions about the arrests themselves — including the lack of public identification of those charged and convicted, as well as the nature of the charges and their dispositions.

News of the arrests also has some wondering whether the DA’s office is cracking down on the kind of communal intimidation its own Orthodox liaison to the community claims keeps families from pressing charges, even after an alleged pedophile is reported or an arrest is made.

According to a report in the New York Post, the DA has been involved in the arrests of 85 alleged predators (with a total of 117 victims) since January 2009. A spokesman for Charles Hynes’ office told The Jewish Week that all of these arrests have come through the Kol Tzedek Program, a confidential hotline established by the DA in 2009 to encourage ultra-Orthodox victims of abuse to report these crimes to the secular authorities.

The Post story noted that of the 85 cases, 47 are still pending and 38 have been closed. It went on to elaborate that while 14 of the 38 closed cases resulted in jail time for the perpetrators, in the remaining 24 closed cases, the defendants “got probation, pleaded to minor charges, or saw their cases dismissed — often because victims or their parents backed out under community pressure.”

Indeed, according to Henna White, Hynes’ liaison to the Orthodox community, “We have victims who back out. Somebody who was very interested in going ahead and working with us, suddenly they stop calling back — we can’t reach them,” she told The Post. “What we believe is they’re getting pressured.”

A Jewish Week story last week on the abuse situation in Lakewood, N.J., described in detail the harassment and attempts at intimidation suffered by one family who reported alleged abuse of their son in that community.

While a spokesman for Hynes’ office provided The Jewish Week with information about the charges and sentences related to the 14 cases in which defendants received jail time, he declined to provide their names or case numbers. In the 24 cases involving probation, pleadings to lesser charges or dismissals, the spokesman declined to provide any information at all.

When asked why the DA’s office does not publicize the names of convicted ultra-Orthodox sex abusers, the spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer, told The Jewish Week that “The Kol Tzedek Program is designed to encourage victims of sexual assault in the ultra-Orthodox community to come forward and report their abuse. Under the Civil Right Law of New York State, we cannot release the names of any victim of sexual assault or any information that would tend to identify them.”

This statement has confounded some advocates and observers who question why revealing the name of a convicted sex offender would identify the name of a victim. It is of particular concern because most such cases — including the majority of Hynes’ 14 that resulted in jail time — require the convicted offender to register on a public sex offender list upon release from prison. 

“The government has not adequately explained why publicly disclosing the names of convicted sex offenders alone would likely reveal the identities of victims of such crimes,” said Itai Maytal, a media attorney specializing in access litigation at the law firm of Miller Korzenik Sommers LLP.

“Blanket denials of such information are contrary to the law and public policy,” Maytal said. “In fact, it seems logical that more victims would be willing to come forward if they knew reported sex crimes lead to convictions.”

Joel Engelman, who alleges he was molested as a child at the hands of a teacher in his Satmar yeshiva in Brooklyn, feels the DA should not only be publicizing the names of those who have been convicted, but those who have been charged as well.

“With the admission of the District Attorney’s liaison that intimidated Orthodox victims back out from pursuing justice and the cases go cold, it is all the more imperative that [the DA] release the names of the persons being charged,” Engelman told The Jewish Week. “Otherwise, how is the community to be aware that the charged individual may be a danger to their children? Also, by publicizing the names of the charged persons, another victim of the charged person who is willing to talk may get the courage to come forward and continue the case.”

When asked what, if anything, the DA was doing about the intimidation of victims, Schmetterer told The Jewish Week that “we work very closely with the victims and their families in these, as in all, cases. Every victim is provided with a culturally sensitive social worker as well as an assistant district attorney. All victims are encouraged to report any intimidation or other pressure they receive regarding their case. Any evidence of threats or other criminal conduct is fully addressed with detectives from our office and the NYPD.”

When asked about whether his office has dealt with any such cases of intimidation, Hynes’ spokesman said he “cannot comment on that.” However, The Jewish Week has learned that the DA is pursuing parole violation charges against Yehuda Kolko. Kolko, who was initially charged with multiple felony counts of sexual abuse but ultimately allowed to plead to lesser charges and three years’ probation, is accused of having violated an order of a protection signed after his guilty plea.

Michael Lesher, who is currently in New York’s highest court seeking documents from the Brooklyn DA under the Freedom of Information law related to information on the case of Avrohom Mondrowitz case, praised the DA’s Office on the arrests, but with caveats.

“We seem to be seeing a more aggressive posture from the DA about sex abuse prosecutions in that community. And that’s a heartening thing,” Lesher said. “On the other hand, it seems to be coming at the price of an intensified relationship between the DA’s office and Orthodox institutions that have their own agenda when it comes to what the public should know in connection with these cases. Kol Tzedek is, after all, a political alliance [Kol Tzedek is in partnership with the Brooklyn-based OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services].

“I think what is really at issue is not just the religious sensitivities of rank-and-file members of the Orthodox community but the specific concerns of powerful institutions in that community, many of which have been implicated and may well be implicated in the mishandling of sex abuse cases over the years.”

Engelman hailed news of the arrests, saying “It is a positive step that the DA’s office is finally publicly acknowledging the threats and intimidation the sexual abuse victims and their families endure in the Orthodox community.”

According to Mark Meyer Appel, president of The Voice of Justice, an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse, said, “It seems to me from the statistics made available by the DA, about 30 percent of the cases are being dropped after the DA has spent thousands of dollars to get these cases started. I think it’s time for the FBI step in and investigate to find out who is obstructing, who is intimidating these victims, and get them arrested. If we do this, then we have a chance to move forward and bring justice to victims.” 

Last Update:

12/15/2011 - 18:27
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The religious leadership of the Orthodox Jewish community has dispicable traits in common with the religious leadership of the Roman Catholic Church - their LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY and their covering up for known sexual predators in their midst. Their abuse of power and authority is as great as that of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.


Both Pennsylvania and New York will have an uphill battle to get any legislation dealing with the sexual abuse of children discussed, let alone signed into law, regardless of what has been happening lately at Penn State, Syracuse or any other educational, religious, public or private institution.

This is especially true if Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput and New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan have anything to do with it.

Both churchmen, along with their respective state Catholic conferences, have drawn lines in the sand in their continued attempts to avoid the accountability and transparency the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed to in 2002 to say nothing of the right everyone has to access justice through this country's judicial process.

Especially significant are the remarks Dolan made to reporters during the November meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the widening sex abuse scandal at Penn State University to the decades-long crisis in the Roman Catholic Church as if the latter were a thing of the past.

Actually, the archbishop misspoke when he said the present Penn State sexual abuse scandal "over a former football coach accused of sexually abusing young boys reopens a wound for the U.S. Roman Catholic Church."

The "wound" Dolan refers to never closed. It is a "wound" that has continued to fester since the Archdiocese of Boston imploded in 2002, revealing a massive cover-up by the hierarchy.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Advocate for Victims & Legislative Reform

What everyone seems to be missing is that the Brooklyn DA's office continues to do what it has done for decades, routinely handling abuse cases in the Orthodox community so that offenders do not serve jail time, do not have publicity and, since the establishment of sex offender registries, ensure that Orthodox sex offenders avoid being registered (or at least put on the public registry).

This is how it was done with Rabbi Yehuda Kolko recently just as it was done with Rabbi Lewis (Lipa) Brenner (see his case in the New York Law Journal - March 14, 1997) a decade earlier. No jail time no requirement to register on the public sex offender registry. Nothing has changed. The DA's office routinely takes advantaged of the families of abused children and pushes them to accept these sorts of outrageous deals claiming it is to "protect" the survivors/victims.

Moreover, the Brooklyn DA's office was run for 13 years by District Attorney Eugene Gold, one of Hynes' predecessors, who was charged with raping the 10 year daughter of another district attorney. Gold confessed to a lesser charge of fondling and agreed to undergo psychiatric treatment to avoid prosecution and jail time. This is the routine way of handling abuse cases in the general community for decades and continues to be the routine way abuse cases are dealt with in the Orthodox community.

Basically, former Brooklyn DA Gold got the same sort of deal that has been (and still is) routinely handed out by the DA's office in Brooklyn.

We need to out all those involved with these deals and once and for all clean up the District Attorney's office in Brooklyn. We need to publicize the names of the sex offenders and the fixers both in and out of the DA's office who protect them.

These deals protect only the abusers and put children in our community at risk.

The way these cases are being handled by the DA's office is extremely disturbing. It seems that what they are doing is merely an extension of what the Orthodox community has been doing for decades, which is to handle child sexual abuse cases internally. Very little can be gained by these phantom arrests if all these predators are not registered as sex offenders. There is no deterrent against other molesters since they know that at worst they will get off with a slap on the wrist. There is no guarantee that these accused molesters will not strike again. And by keeping their identities a secret, their other victims will not come forward and we will never know the full extent of these predators' crimes. All in all, how does Kol Tzedek help protect our children from these criminals? All it does is help Hynes pad his record with meaningless statistics of "arrests" while the policy of handling these cases internally continues indefinitely. Hynes and his Orthodox benefactors view this as a win/win situation while the victims and the community as a whole continues to suffer with this plague. Until we see some of these molesters being brought to justice and registering as sex offenders as required by law, we cannot say that we have made any progress. From what I see, Hynes and his backers, who have big mouths and deep pockets, have hatched a more elaborate scheme to cover up these crimes while they can claim that they are really going after the molesters. The truth about Hynes and his 22 years of cover ups, beginning with the Mondrowitz case, needs to be exposed. Those in the community who are systematically obstructing justice by intimidating and harassing victims need be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And finally, the Markey Bill must be made into law which will extend the statute of limitations to age 28 and will give the victims more of a chance to file charges against their abusers.

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