Four members of Brooklyn, New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been indicted on charged of intimidating and otherwise pressuring witnesses in a high-profile child sexual abuse case. Among other things, prosecutors charge that one of the four offered the alleged teenaged victim a half a million dollars to leave the country and avoid testifying at trial. The other three men are accused of trying to harass the same girl into silence.
The four men, Abraham Rubin, and three brothers, Jacob, Joseph and Hertzka Berger, have pleaded not guilty to charges including witness tampering, bribing a witness and coercion, according to the Associated Press.
The accused were allegedly working to protect 53-year-old Nechemya Weberman, a prominent ultra-Orthodox spiritual advisor who allegedly molested the young girl when she was between the ages of 12 and 15. As we reported previously, the tight-knit Hasidic community in Brooklyn has thrown its support behind Weberman, while his alleged victim, now 17, and her family have become outcast.
Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jews have long been encouraged by their leaders to take allegations of sexual misconduct to rabbis before they make reports to secular authorities. In this case, the alleged victim’s family says they would have preferred to deal with the allegations within the community. But they told the Associated Press that victims are rarely believed and abusers aren’t punished.
In addition to trying to bribe and intimidate the alleged victim in the Weberman case, the four men are also accused of targeting her boyfriend, who may be called to testify in the Weberman trial. Among other things, the three brothers allegedly threatened to take away the man’s kosher license at his Brooklyn restaurant if he didn’t persuade her to drop the case. According to the indictment, one of the defendants eventually went to the restaurant and tore down the license, the Associated Press said.
An attorney for Weberman denied his client had anything to do with the conduct outlined in the indictments of the four men.
“We denounce any effort to undermine the legitimate court process in this or any case. Mr. Weberman has stated from the beginning that no one should be subjected to any form of harassment,” he said in a statement.
In 2009, Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, instituted a program called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice) aimed at helping more victims in the ultra-Orthodox community come forward about abuse. But the program has become controversial because prosecutors don’t publicize the names of the accused. Hynes claims that is necessary in order to protect victims.
While Hynes has launched a task force to deal with the issue of community intimidation, he’s recently been accused of ignoring certain sex abuse cases in order to garner political support from some powerful Hasidic rabbis.