by Scott Shifrel (NY Daily News)
April 12, 2010
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango gave Rabbi Baruch Lebovits consecutive sentences for eight sexual abuse counts.
"It is important for the courts to send a clear message that abusing and harming children will not be tolerated," she told a courtroom packed with Lebovits' supporters and victim advocates.
Asked whether he wanted to address the court, Lebovits said: "No thanks."
His lawyer called Lobovits a "saint" and asked the judge to set aside the verdict, claiming the allegations were just a shakedown for cash.
The lawyer, Arthur Aidala, he charged that the teen's family didn't press charges until the rabbi's son, in Israel, got rich.
"They came forward when his son Chaim hit the lottery and became a multimillionaire," Aidala said.
A jury found Lebovits guilty of abusing the 16-year-old friend of a son, luring him into a car and performing sex acts on him.
The victim, who is now 22, said he was relieved at the outcome of the case.
"My experience here has given me hope and optimism I thought was lost forever," he said in court.
"Every day Baruch Lebovits is in prison is a day that kids in our community are safe from him."
The victim's grandmother was pleased with the sentence but said her grandson, who turned to drugs and burglary after he was molested, will never be the same.
"He was so sweet, such a sweet boy," she said. "How do you give back a child his life, his innocence?"
Several advocates said the harsh sentence will send a message to the Orthodox Jewish community where, they say, frank discussion of sexual abuse is rare.
"It's not going to change overnight," said Beth Kaplan, director of Sacred Lives. "The sense of denial in this community is starting to stop.
"The Jewish community at large needs to hear the message, accept the message and understand the message: this happens all the time and it needs to stop happening."