A Brooklyn dad claims the borough’s former district attorney Charles Hynes targeted him while cutting a sweetheart deal with a prominent rabbi accused of sexually abusing boys.
Samuel Kellner says in a federal civil rights lawsuit that Hynes falsely charged him with extortion after he led an effort to lock up Baruch Lebovits.
“The ‘investigation’ by Hynes into [Kellner] deviated so egregiously from acceptable law enforcement activity as to demonstrate an intentional or reckless disregard for proper procedures,” reads the lawsuit targeting Hynes and the city.
The sordid saga began in 2008 when Lebovits allegedly molested Kellner’s son.
A prosecutor told Kellner that the district attorney’s office wasn’t going to open an investigation because the alleged offense was a misdemeanor and there were no other known victims, the suit says.
But Kellner, working with a detective, found other boys who were preyed upon by Lebovits.
Hynes’ office launched a probe but Kellner claims the former DA did nothing when Lebovits’ supporters succeeded in convincing one of his victims to drop the case.
“Hynes’ deliberate indifference towards [the boy’s] plight and failure to protect him was part of a policy, custom and practice of deliberate indifference towards witness tampering and intimidation of victims of pedophiles and their families within the ultra-Orthodox community,” says the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Lebovits was ultimately convicted in March 2010 of multiple counts of sexual assault and sentenced to serve up to 32 years.
Kellner’s joy was short-lived.
He claims in the suit that Hynes quietly dismissed his son’s case against Lebovits in October 2010.
“The suffering and courage of a victim in coming forward to report his abuse meant nothing to Hynes,” Kellner’s attorney Niall Macgiollabhui wrote in the suit.
Things got worse for Kellner in April 2011 when he was charged with trying to blackmail Lebovits’ wealthy family and paying a man to falsely accuse the rabbi.
Hynes held a news conference trumpeting Kellner’s arrest.
Lebovits was sprung from jail the next day. His conviction was overturned in 2012.
“What is truly shocking is that instead of locking up pedophiles and protecting children, Hynes was instrumental in securing the release of a notorious predator from prison and dismissing the cases of two victims he and his office knew to have been abused,” Macgiollabhui told the Daily News.
“At some point Hynes will have to explain why he conspired in the shadows with the family of a convicted child rapist to undermine the conviction his own office had just secured.”
The criminal charges against Kellner were dropped in March 2014 after a prosecutor re-examining the case found inconsistencies in the accounts of two key witnesses.
Lebovits pleaded guilty to reduced charges in May 2014 and was sentenced to serve another year.
He was released after just 86 days.
Hynes’ lawyer did not return a request for comment.
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said it will review the complaint.
Kellner filed a defamation suit against the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in November 2014. That case was settled in January under a confidentiality agreement.
Rabbi charged with rape, sexual assault, sodomy against a minor
By JEREMY SHARON 12/18/2016
According to the indictment, Harrison, now 58, initiated direct contact with the complainant after he was her substitute teacher at Beit Shulamit in December 2009. In an indictment sheet of horrifying allegations, Rabbi David Harrison, who taught at the Beit Shulamit religious girls high school in Jerusalem, was charged with dozens of counts of rape, sodomy, sexual assault, assault and intimidation through threats against a former pupil, who was a minor at the time.
The complainant, a woman now aged 21, filed a charge of rape and other allegations against the rabbi at the beginning of the month claiming that they took place over a period of several months when she was 14.
Harrison has spent his career as a teacher and educator, and has also worked extensively performing wedding ceremonies for couples without a personal connection to a rabbi. Harrison began work at Beit Shulamit, in the Ramot neighborhood, as a part-time teacher in September 2007 but was fired in June 2010.
According to the indictment, Harrison, now 58, initiated direct contact with the complainant in December 2009, after he was her substitute teacher at Beit Shulamit.
A few days later, he met the pupil close to her classroom and asked her to accompany him to a staff room where he gave her worksheets to hand out to another class.
On this and several other occasions, Harrison allegedly touched the student on her hand, arm, stomach and chest, but apologized immediately for having touched her.
At a later stage, Harrison allegedly called the pupil to the same staff room used specifically by the rabbis of the school and which could be locked from the inside.
When she entered, Harrison allegedly locked the door behind her and told her to sit down, whereupon he took off his pants and underwear, and forced her to perform oral sex, while telling her that it was all right because he was a rabbi, that it was a secret between them and threatening to harm her if she told anyone.
In the next incident after this assault, Harrison allegedly met the girl at the entrance to the school and told her to come with him to a bomb shelter in the building, divided into two rooms. According to the indictment he pushed her into the inner room of the shelter, and told her to undress, slapping her in the face when he told her she was undressing too slowly.
He then hit her again, forced her to lie on a table in the room and then raped her. Afterwards he told her that she’d had fun, and that so had he, and that she had been a good girl. He again threatened to harm her and that he would tell everyone she was a prostitute if she spoke with anyone about what he had done.
According to the charge sheet, Harrison raped the girl between two and four times a week, including sodomy. On one occasion the day after he raped her, he forced her to swallow an emergency contraception or “morning after” pill.
During May 2010, the complainant was ill and was away from school. When she returned, Harrison allegedly ordered her to meet him in the shelter and scolded her for having been away without informing him.
He then allegedly ordered her to strip and beat her for several minutes, and then raped her once again.
The beatings occurred on other occasions as well, in which Harrison would kick the pupil, beat her with his belt, and in one incident threw a chair at her, bruising and scratching her.
Harrison would allegedly repeatedly threaten to harm her if she did not do as he instructed, and threatened to tell her parents and others that she had initiated sex with him and that they would believe him and not her because he was a rabbi.
He also threatened that he would have her expelled from school, that no other schools would accept her, and threatened to send other people to harm her and even kill her.
The state has requested that Harrison be incarcerated until the end of the legal proceedings against him.
The director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Orit Sulitzeanu, described the allegations as “outrageous and terrifying” and said that such crimes required a severe punishment.
“This criminal exploitation by an educator and religious figure is unforgivable,” said Sulitzeanu.
“This incident demonstrates the urgent need to ensure that advisers are placed in all educational frameworks who will be able to identify and deal with sexual violence, and for pupils to attend workshops for the prevention of sexual violence.”
Harrison denies the allegations against him and says he does not even know the woman.
Child abuse royal commission: Rabbi inaction failed abuse victims within Yeshiva community
The royal commission has delivered its findings into child abuse at Jewish institutions in Melbourne and Sydney, saying that abuse victims were let down by rabbis and their “confused” adherence to the Jewish law Mesirah, leaving them vulnerable to paedophiles.
The commission found many of the lead rabbis at Yeshiva Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi, as well as synagogues and schools in Sydney and Melbourne followed “a pattern of total inaction” that was wholly inadequate.
Three commissioners found a “marked absence of supportive leadership for survivors of abuse” and the incorrect application of Jewish law left those who spoke out criticised and isolated.
Mesirah is the religious concept stopping a Jewish person informing upon another to a secular authority. To do so would make them a “Moser”.
Mixed messages produced inaction
Those who spoke out where strongly criticised and confusion reigned about whether reporting abuse to police was forbidden, the report found.
“If anything, the mixed messages were likely to have produced inaction,” the report said.
Four victims of sexual abuse, along with leading rabbis within the Chabad movement, gave evidence about child abuse in Yeshiva Colleges and centres in Melbourne and Bondi last year.
Convicted paedophiles David Cyprys, Rabbi David Kramer and Daniel Hayman were all the subjects of allegations of abuse by parents and students between 1984 and 2000.
“It is perhaps unsurprising that a community described in the evidence as being insular, would be concerned by communication with those external to the community about child sexual abuse reportedly perpetrated by Jews,” the report said.
“We are satisfied that, for the period from 1984 to 2007, the Yeshiva College Melbourne did not have adequate policies, processes and practices for responding to complaints.”
Child abuse ‘uncommon’
Senior Sydney rabbi Yosef Feldman provoked controversy when he told the royal commission he would be “asking for more leniency” for reformed or inactive paedophiles
In its findings, the commission was critical of his ignorance about what constituted child abuse.
“Rabbi Feldman freely admitted to a lack of technical knowledge about child sexual abuse but expressed the belief that his ignorance was unimportant,” the report said.
He told the commission he believed child abuse to be “uncommon”.
“He did not hear of child sexual abuse or complaints of child sexual abuse ‘much’ and believed that ‘only’ 5 to 10 per cent of the community ‘are involved’ in child sexual abuse,” the report said.
Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand public statement in response to the Royal Commission Report
30 November 2016
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Report of Case Study No. 22. The response of Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse made against people associated with those institutions
The Executive of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ), The Rabbinical Council of New South Wales (RCNSW) and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) are grateful for yesterday’s report by the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse at Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne, and deeply distressed by its contents.
Child sexual abuse has caused unimaginable suffering to the victims in our community, and RCANZ, RCNSW and RCV and their members are totally committed to removing this scourge from our community and from our institutions. We offer our deepest sympathies to the victims and commit ourselves to learning from the failures of the past.
As the Royal Commission has made clear, child sexual abuse was allowed to continue because of actions and inaction by some rabbis and community leaders. Victims were not always believed or supported, adding to the trauma.
We restate a ruling that has been made many times before, that Jewish law requires all allegations of child sexual abuse to be reported immediately to the police and other relevant government authorities. We encourage all professionals working in the Jewish community whose work brings them into any contact with young people to receive specific and detailed training in child protection. We urge all synagogues and schools in our community to ensure proper governance procedures to oversee the work of their staff, to ensure that failings are identified and corrected.
We call on those who have been identified in the report as not fulfilling their legal obligations to protect children to stand down from their public positions. We believe that those who denigrated or undermined the victims have lost their moral right to serve as leaders in our communities. The Rabbinate must demonstrate that Judaism and the Jewish community will not tolerate child sexual abuse and those who perpetrate it, and must support those who have suffered.
We hope and pray that this report will help our community and others to keep children safe, and ensure that no child in the Jewish community, or throughout Australia, will ever again suffer the horrors of sexual abuse.
No member of the signatory bodies with a conflict of interest took part in the drafting of this statement. For further information please contact Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Secretary of RCANZ via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melbourne Yeshivah Centre public statement in response to the Royal Commission Report
29 November 2016
28 Cheshvan 5777
29th November, 2016
Dear Community Members
Today, the ‘Report of Case Study No. 22’ was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Yeshivah Centre is currently reviewing the Report and expects to make a more detailed statement in the near future.
As you are aware, in February 2015, the Yeshivah Centre was the subject of a Royal Commission into ‘Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’. This followed the incarceration of two perpetrators of child sexual abuse, both of whom held roles in different capacities at the Centre. The Commission focussed on the institutional response to these crimes.
The Yeshivah Centre deeply regrets its failure to protect those who were victims of child sexual abuse perpetrated by people in a position of trust in the Yeshivah Centre and its schools. We condemn any form of abuse and acknowledge the serious harm it causes, both at the time of the abuse and later in life, for victims and their families.
The Yeshivah Centre Board and staff have been working hard to properly respond to these issues and ensure that we embed policies and processes of the highest standards to create a safe environment for our children, and to support and show compassion for victims and their families. The Yeshivah Centre’s number one priority is the safety of the children in its care, and we will continue to take all possible steps to maintain and continually raise this standard. We also need to ensure that we continue to support and show compassion for victims and their families.
In September this year, the Commission invited us to present our current policies and procedures in relation to child protection and child-safe standards and the steps taken across the Centre following the Royal Commission hearing. We submitted information in relation to:
The newly established governance framework (with elections closing 7 December 2016);
Our accreditation from the Australian Childhood Foundation (Chabad Youth in 2014 and YeshivahBeth Rivkah Colleges in March 2016); and
The establishment of an independently operated Redress Scheme for past victims of Child Sexual Abuse.
In its executive summary and media release the Report notes that:
The evidence identified that Yeshivah Melbourne has taken significant steps in implementing structured child protection measures, including drafting formal policies and giving training to children, parents and staff.
We are aware that the process of growth and change that the Centre has embraced over the past few years will continue to present us with some challenges along the way. However, we firmly believe that this process of change and the new representative governance structures now being established will bring us forward towards a stronger, brighter and safer future.
The Yeshivah Centre encourages anyone who has experienced sexual abuse at Yeshivah Centre (Melbourne) to contact the independently operated redress scheme via the confidential email email@example.com or the police (contact the Moorabbin SOCIT unit on 9556-6124).
Compounding the Cruelty of Abuse by Entertaining a Lawsuit Against one Brave Rabbi Willing to Stand up and Protect Abused Children.
We at LM hope that THE DAILY BEAST does not object to our decision to post the entire article from top to bottom. We would like to see rabbis and parents, teachers and other children applauded and praised for coming forward to protect abused children.
The children are precluded from suing the Rabbis who abuse them, the rabbis who use their Rabbinical stature as a tool for abuse, a corridor into the destruction of the very children they are entrusted to protect.
One Rabbi, knowing that Israel does not have a sex offender registry, tried to protect those children by tweeting about their abuser. He is now embroiled in a lawsuit over it.
We feel strongly that if the courts do not dismiss this lawsuit, they are encouraging silence. They are complicit in the crimes committed against the abused children.
We feel it is important to send the message that the courts, the communities and the families will commend Rabbis who come forward, thereby encouraging them to do so. Anything short of that, in our view, is just another act of cruelty and injustice against abused children.
Sex Offender Sues Rabbi for Tweets Alerting Families in Israel
A CHILD sexual abuse victim of Rabbi David Kramer has gone public for the first time, claiming his negotiations with Yeshivah Centre for compensation have hit a roadblock.
Shimon Walles, who was sexually abused by Kramer when he was a Yeshivah student in 1990, spoke to police for the first time in 2008.
In 2013, Kramer pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting Walles among others, and received a jail sentence.
“When Kramer was convicted I was more traumatised by the re-victimisation,” Walles exclusively told The AJN this week, referring to his treatment by some members of the Yeshivah community.
“At the time, the retribution was so bad that I couldn’t live in Australia.
“I was just trying to move on with my life and at the time I never thought of civil action.”
According to Walles, when he returned to Australia in 2014 the victimisation and intimidation continued.
He said he felt like he was being driven out of the country ahead of the Royal Commission. He then contacted Yeshivah for the first time to seek compensation through mediation.
He claimed that over the course of two years Yeshivah failed to adequately respond, and that earlier this year his lawyer told him to start proceedings in court.
“I told my lawyer that I want to keep things civil with Yeshivah, and instead of going to court to write them another letter and try and go to mediation again.
“I wasn’t looking for a war with Yeshivah, I just wanted to be peaceful.”
But last week, after another round of negotiations with Yeshivah, Walles finally gave up and decided to take legal action.
“I’m very frustrated and unfortunately it has come to this, but if they can’t wake up after everything that has happened what choice do I have?
“I am now ready to start exposing it for what it is.”
Walles said that deciding to publicly reveal himself as a victim was difficult, but made easier given his treatment by the community.
“I know they speak about me behind my back and do terrible things behind my back, so at this point in time what do I have to lose?”
In a statement to The AJN the Yeshivah’s management said that ensuring that survivors of child sexual abuse are treated with respect and dignity has the highest priority.
“Measures have been put in place through education and training to try to ensure that survivors are treated with sensitivity and compassion,” the statement said.
“In recognition of past abuse, the centre also established a redress scheme offering redress including monetary payments and access to counselling which is available to survivors in a respectful confidential manner outside the legal framework.
“The centre takes all such claims seriously but is understandably not in a position to make public comment in relation to a particular claim or individual making a claim.”