Renewed Firestorm Over Orthodox Sex Abuse in Brooklyn

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brooklynda.org
Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes
The relationship between Brooklyn's Orthodox and Hasidic communities and law enforcement has always been a delicate one. Our cover story last summer looked at how hard it is for victims of sexual abuse to get past religious leaders and neighborhood patrols to talk to the police.

At the center of the debate is Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who has been criticized by victims' advocates as being reluctant to prosecute Orthodox and Hasidic sex criminals. Lately Hynes has been trying to reverse that perception, but so far it looks like he's just managed to stir up more criticism.

The Jewish Daily Forward has been pressing Hynes for months to quantify just what his office is doing about the sex abuse problem, and last week the DA coughed up some numbers: His office told the New York Post that it has arrested and charged 85 Orthodox alleged child molesters in the last three years.

That's a big deal -- it's a significant jump from the 26 such arrests the DA reported from 2007 to 2009, and Hynes credits Kol Tzedek, a confidential hotline program he unveiled two years ago to much fanfare.

But there are some problems: By the DA's count, only 38 of those 85 cases have been closed, and only 14 resulted in jail time. Hynes's office told The Post that the other 24 accused molesters walked free "often because victims or their parents backed out under community pressure."

That squares with what advocates say often happens: Rabbinic leaders pressure victims' families to drop the case and stop cooperating with the investigation. Such behavior can add up to witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Hynes told the Forward any evidence of witness intimidation "is immediately pursued and investigated vigorously," but it's not clear to observers that his office has every brought witness intimidation charges against members of the Orthodox community.

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Not everyone is even convinced that Hynes's numbers are accurate, though. The DA has refused to identify any alleged Orthodox sex criminals -- even the 14 who have been convicted. Hynes justifies that with an unusually expansive interpretation of a law that allows officials to withhold information that might reveal the identity of victims.

But even so, he appears to be applying the law selectively. Two days ago, his office issued a press release announcing the sentencing of an offender who isn't part of of the Orthodox community. The release named the offender, Gerald Hatcher, and specified that he was sentenced "for raping his girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter."

The Voice has asked the District Attorney's office for comment on all these issues, and we'll update as soon as we hear from them.

For victims' advocates, Hynes's reluctance to be more forthcoming is the final straw.

"I think the DA's office thought when they did this initial thing with The Forward they were just going to flip this number out there, and that would be it," says Michael Lesher, an Orthodox Jew and a lawyer who specializes in sex abuse cases within the community. "But it's really galvanized public interest and public anger."

For Ben Hirsch, the founder of Survivors For Justice, a support organization for sex-abuse victims from the Orthodox world, it's clear that Hynes isn't interested in addressing the problem.

"There's only one solution here," Hirsch says. "We need federal law enforcement. We need prosecution of the people who are blocking the reporting -- the problem is less the sex offenders themselves and much more the people who obstruct justice, thereby creating a safe haven and breeding ground for sex offenders."

Lesher agrees. "In this one connection, in this one community, this one kind of sex abuse case, we have this tremendous sensitivity that I can only explain as politics trumping law," he says. "Someone needs to come in and set that right."

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.


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6 comments
Froanie
Froanie

The media and the DOJ seem to be the only answer when it comes to sex offenders in the city.  Remember the sex offender super on the UWS?  Not one city agency was willing to do anything despite numerous complaints and pleas from tenants.  After the story was reported by every news outlet in NY, the politicians did some sabre rattling but nothing seems to have come of it, but the DOJ did step up and filed suit against the landlord and super.  It's a sad, sad commentary on the people who are there, supposedly to protect and prosecute those who pose a significant danger to the well-being of children and community who instead protect those who do such grave harm.  

TrueBeliever101
TrueBeliever101

There is preferential treatment for Jews in general who commit crimes in NYC. I was a assistant D.A for 6 yrs. It stems from the financial political patronage system in NYC. This is nothing new. Yes I will be labled anti-semetic

Jewishwhistleblower
Jewishwhistleblower

Also, the failedmessiah blog recently posted a tape recording of DA Charles Hynes acknowledging that the DA's office has a "Rapprochement" With Agudath Israel Of America (this is from that blog):__________________________________________________________________________"Charles Hynes also says that not every sex offender goes to jail because, for people who come to his office through Kol Tzedek, his special programs for child sex abusers in the haredi community, or priests who come to his office through a similar arrangement with the Church, "we have programs for people who have this sickness." Hynes also said there is "no systemic outbreak of sexual violence in the frum community – that's a myth – any more than there is a systemic outbreak of sexual violence in the priesthood."Note these special programs Hynes mentions, including Kol Tzedek, and the deals they dole out to sex offenders from their respective affinity groups, deals that allow sexual predators to avoid prison (and the sex offender registry and media coverage) are specifically for Catholic clergy and haredim."__________________________________________________________________________

Jewishwhistleblower
Jewishwhistleblower

What everyone seems to be missing is that the Brooklyn DA's office continues to do what it has done for decades, routinely handling abuse cases in the Orthodox community so that offenders do not serve jail time, do not have publicity and, since the establishment of sex offender registries, ensure that Orthodox sex offenders avoid being registered (or at least put on the public registry).

This is how it was done with Rabbi Yehuda Kolko recently just as it was done with Rabbi Lewis (Lipa) Brenner (see his case in the New York Law Journal - March 14, 1997) a decade earlier. No jail time no requirement to register on the public sex offender registry. Nothing has changed. The DA's office routinely takes advantaged of the families of abused children and pushes them to accept these sorts of outrageous deals claiming it is to "protect" the survivors/victims.

Moreover, the Brooklyn DA's office was run for 13 years by District Attorney Eugene Gold, one of Hynes' predecessors, who was charged with raping the 10 year daughter of another district attorney. Gold confessed to a lesser charge of fondling and agreed to undergo psychiatric treatment to avoid prosecution and jail time. This is the routine way of handling abuse cases in the general community for decades and continues to be the routine way abuse cases are dealt with in the Orthodox community.

Basically, former Brooklyn DA Gold got the same sort of deal that has been (and still is) routinely handed out by the DA's office in Brooklyn.

We need to out all those involved with these deals and once and for all clean up the District Attorney's office in Brooklyn. We need to publicize the names of the sex offenders and the fixers both in and out of the DA's office who protect them.

These deals protect only the abusers and put children in our community at risk.

Edward Gousse, L.Ac.
Edward Gousse, L.Ac.

So this goes on here too?  I thought it was just the "Church." Depressing!

scottindallas
scottindallas

and people are worried about Sharia in the US?  We need to get the special treatment for the better connected taken care of before we worry about a few Muslims seeking to enter into contracts on their own terms. 

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