Lawyer Alex Lewenberg could be struck off after telling sex abuse victim not to point finger at a fellow Jew
By Tom Cowie
March 15, 2016
|Prominent Melbourne Lawyer Alex Lewenberg leaving VCAT after a hearing on allegations of professional misconduct.|
Photo by Justin McManus
|Paedophile David Cyprys was sentenced to eight years jail in 2013.|
Photo by Jason South
|In 2009, Alex Lewenberg was viciously bashed by an intruder in his city apartment.|
Photo by Craig Abraham
He's a pugnacious solicitor who has made a living representing some of Melbourne's most notorious underworld figures.
Now Alex Lewenberg faces possible disbarment over allegedly telling a child sex abuse victim to stay quiet.
The colourful criminal lawyer has survived being bashed, shot at and stabbed with a sword from a suit of armour during a home invasion.
He was once attacked in his office by a woman with a baseball bat posing as the wife of a gangland figure.
He has represented Billy "The Texan" Longley, Boris "The Black Diamond" Beljajev, Tony Mokbel's brother and murdered police informant Terrence Hodson.
His client list also includes Yeshivah centre sex offender David Cyprys.
On Tuesday, lawyer became client in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, as Mr Lewenberg faced allegations he pressured a victim of the notorious paedophile to stay silent because they were both Jews.
The Victorian Legal Services Commissioner has accused Mr Lewenberg of "professional misconduct" over two incidents where he complained about the victim helping police.
In a secretly recorded telephone conversation, revealed by Fairfax Media, Mr Lewenberg, a Russian-born Jew, told the victim, known as AVB:
"I am not exactly delighted that another Yid [Jew] would assist police against an accused no matter whatever he is accused of and that is the reason why I was very disappointed," Mr Lewenberg said in October 2011.
"Because there is a tradition, if not a religious requirement, that you do not assist against Abraham."
Mr Lewenberg has admitted that he made the comments, along with similar remarks a month earlier in a bail hearing for Cyprys at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in September 2011. Cyprys was sentenced to eight years jail in 2013.
Nicholas Green QC, who was appearing on behalf of the Legal Services Commissioner, told the tribunal that both comments violated the professional conduct rules observed by legal practitioners.
He said a criminal justice system where some parts of society show "misguided solidarity" and not help police was "disgraceful and dishonourable" to the legal profession.
"We say that there is just no room in a contemporary society for conduct of that kind," he said.
Mr Lewenberg's lawyer, Jeremy Rushkin QC, told the tribunal that his client did not dispute that he made the comments but said they should be taken in context of him representing Cyprys.
While he accepted that Mr Lewenberg's remarks were inappropriate and could not be defended, Mr Rushkin said his client should only be found guilty of the lesser charge of unsatisfactory professional conduct.
"These are not the words that were written on a webpage to announce what your philosophy is," he said.
In reply, Mr Green told the tribunal that the comments were not spontaneous and were intended to threaten AVB.
"He went hard on the man. And he went on a Jew telling on another Jew," he said. "Put colloquially, it was a shirtfont."
VCAT vice-president Judge Pamela Jenkins said the comments at the bail hearing became known among the Orthodox Jewish community, which led to threats against AVB.
"What happened could have been anticipated to happen, it got spread very quickly with terrible consequences for AVB," she said.
Mr Lewenberg was previously banned from practising as a solicitor for two years in 1989 after he was found guilty of three charges of serious professional misconduct.
Lawyers found guilty of professional misconduct face having their practicing certificate suspend or being struck off the Victorian roll.
The hearing continues.