By James King (Village Voice)
June 21, 2012
Four Orthodox Jews have been indicted on charges that they attempted to persuade/intimidate witnesses into not testifying in the upcoming trial against "therapist" Nechemya Weberman, who allegedly sexually abused one of his patients for several years, starting when the girl was only 12 years old.
Abraham Rubin, 48, was hit with several charges including four counts of bribing a witness, two counts of tampering with a witness in the fourth degree and one count of coercion in the second degree. Three brothers, Joseph, Jacob and Hertzka Berger, face additional charges for attempting to intimidate the witness -- according to authorities, they threatened to remove the rabbi-issued kosher certification from the witness' restaurant, and Jacob Berger physically went to the business and tore the kosher certificate off the wall.
The indictments are the first stemming from Project Kol Tzedek, a task force set up by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office aimed at helping sex-crime victims in Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish Communities to report abuse. According to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, because of the "insular nature" of Orthodox Jewish communities, and victims who are reluctant to report crimes to secular authorities, this program "goes a long way to address those impediments."
In the case of Rubin, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office says he offered Weberman's alleged victim and her boyfriend -- who was the "outcry witness" in the case against Weberman -- $500,000 to drop the case. Rubin allegedly offered to get an attorney for the couple who could teach them how to be uncooperative with authorities. Rubin even suggested that the couple flee the country to avoid testifying against Weberman.
The Berger brothers each have been charged with second-degree aggravated harassment for allegedly intimidating the victim. Jacob Berger also faces third-degree criminal mischief for tearing the certificate off the wall.
If convicted, the Bergers each face up to a year in jail. Jacob Berger's looking at up to four years in prison for the criminal mischief charge.
"Intimidation of victims and witnesses in sex abuse cases in the Orthodox community is what has made prosecuting these cases so difficult. Victims were afraid to come forward because they would be threatened and shunned in their communities," Hynes says. "My office spares no effort to conceal and protect the identities of sex crimes victims, regardless of their cultural or religious background. Hopefully, these indictments serve as an example that we will not tolerate individuals who try to interfere with the pursuit of justice."
From Hynes' office:
Victims who call the Project Kol Tzedek hotline, (718)250-3000, are not required to identify themselves. They will speak with a culturally sensitive social worker and a prosecutor from the Sex Crimes Bureau. Prosecutors and social workers are available to meet with victims in a comfortable environment to discuss their cases.