New York - Since a 103-year sentence was handed down last week in the sexual abuse case involving 54-year-old, unlicensed therapist Nechemya Weberman, many have said that the Satmar community was deliberately singled out for punishment, The Wall Street Journal reports (http://on.wsj.com/Y7DV0b).
“It’s not a good number. The 103-year sentence is going to discourage future victims from coming forward because nobody wants to have that on their conscience their entire life,” said Gary Schlesinger who heads a charity with ties to Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum. “Sometimes you can have a person rehabilitated for a much shorter time.”
According to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, 113 people have been arrested since the Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice) program was launched in 2009 to help Orthodox victims of sexual abuse. The program has resulted in a 70% conviction rate, including the Weberman case. An additional 40 cases were investigated, but could not be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a nonprofit with links to Brooklyn’s Satmar community said the DA’s office should have handled the case more “delicately.”
“Many people felt it wasn’t as if Mr. Weberman was on trial, it was as if the community was on trial,” Zwiebel said.
“The reaction I’ve heard from many is maybe we shouldn’t be cooperating with law-enforcement authorities.” He added that while he supported the idea of dealing with sex abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community, he feared that the 103-year sentence might be seen as “the system is rigged against Hasidic Jews.”
However, prosecutors said they consider the sentence a “significant victory.”
“I hope that people can see that if they come forward, that there are measures in place to help,” said Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office sex-crimes division.
Orthodox Jewish Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has regularly spoken about sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community on his weekly radio show program, said he would have preferred a lesser sentence for Weberman. “As horrible as all of this, I would have been happier if it would not have been 103,” said Hikind “This almost says to people who already have a chip on their shoulder that the Orthodox community isn’t getting a fair shake that they’re right.”
Last month, Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the public relations firm The Friedlander Group, wrote in the Forward that he viewed Weberman’s guilty verdict as “an opportunity to confront abuse once and for all.” But now he says the heavy sentence imposed against Weberman has even “fair-minded” people in the community asking if the system “is stacked against us.”
“The community looks at a 100-year-sentence and says, ‘Whoa, murderers don’t get anywhere near 100 years,’” Friedlander told the Forward (http://bit.ly/VfbCKR).
Shortly after the sentencing, people took to blogs and Twitter to discuss the 103-year sentence. Many compared Weberman’s sentence to the one received by Levi Aron, the man who kidnapped and murdered 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in Borough Park, Brooklyn in 2011. Levi took a plea deal and received a sentence of only 40 years to life.
Brooklyn DA Hynes has said his office asked for the maximum sentence for Weberman knowing that the sentence would probably be reduced to 50 years on appeal, a move which is typical in sex abuse cases.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013
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