Brooklyn DA Not Naming Orthodox Jewish Abuse Suspects

The Brooklyn DA is refusing to name the orthodox Jewish child sex abuse suspects arrested or charged in the highly successful Kol Tzedek child sex abuse initiative that led to 85 arrests.

It seems that Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes, has not and will not release the names of the 85 Orthodox Jewish child molesters that his office has said it arrested and charged in Kol Tzedek, said The Jewish Week. Kol Tzedek, said Jewish Week, was created in collaboration with OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services and other Jewish nonprofits and was initiated to help abuse victims in the ultra-Orthodox community report the crimes to secular law enforcement.

Kol Tzedek, Hebrew for “voice of justice,” was launched by the Brooklyn DA’s office in 2009, and aims to coax child sexual abuse victims to come forward, despite pressure exerted by the Orthodox community that makes many reluctant to do so. Since its launch, 117 alleged child sexual abuse victims have come forward. Almost all are male; all but two accused perpetrators are men. So far, 38 cases have been closed; 14 abusers were sentenced to jail time for crimes that include sex abuse, attempted kidnapping, and sodomy. Sentences have ranged from a month in jail to 10-to-20 years.

The remainder have been put on probation, pleaded to minor charges, or saw their cases dismissed. Sadly, the dismissals often came after victims and their parents bowed to immense community pressure to stop cooperating with law enforcement. Convincing victims of child sexual abuse to come forward is difficult in the ultra-orthodox community because rabbis enforce a rule against reporting fellow Jews to secular authorities. Defying the rabbis can result in families becoming outcasts, ruining prospects for marriage or running businesses.

Hynes office spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer gave The Jewish Week information on the charges and sentences concerning the 14 cases involving jail sentences, but refused to release molesters’ names or case numbers. In the 24 cases involving probation, pleading lesser charges, or dismissal, no information was provided. When asked why, 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 Rights 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.” Advocates and experts argue that the victims’ privacy law cited does not prevent the DA from releasing convicted molesters’ names.

Tim Walsh, advocate, lobbyist, and survivor of clergy abuse told The Jewish Week that, “I was raped by a ‘man of God’ [who was protected by the church]. And to think that now our civil system is protecting molesters [by not releasing their names] … because of politics … it’s another level of betrayal and loss of power…. The DA’s [refusal to release these names] is scary, an elected official who is supposed to protect all the people is protecting the few. It is unconscionable.”

Meanwhile, in June 2009, two months after Kol Tzedek was put in place, the DA issued press releases and statements about the convictions of a number of men from the Brooklyn Orthodox community including Bernard Mutterperl and Yona Weinberg, a “bar mitzvah tutor and licensed social worker”; Stefan Colmer—who fled to Israel and was extradited to Brooklyn in 2009 under a “new extradition treaty” with Israel—guilty plea; and Baruch Lebovits’—a “rabbi and prominent businessman in the community”—conviction, said The Jewish Week.

Michael Lesher, attorney and author involved in Freedom of Information Law litigation with Hynes’ office said, “Kol Tzedek is a political alliance between the District Attorney and Orthodox Jewish institutions in Brooklyn, notably OHEL, that have a long and appalling record of covering up child sex abuse charges…. By insisting on keeping the current Orthodox sex abuse cases under wraps, OHEL and its allies simultaneously protect the perpetrators as much as they can and keep their own kid-glove treatment of offenders out of the public eye. If I’m wrong, there’s a very simple way to prove it. All the DA has to do is to open these case histories to the public [minus the identifying information of the victims].”

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