Brooklyn DA Reveals New Details on Nearly 100 Orthodox Sex Abuse Cases

By Susan Edelman and Brad Hamilton
New York Post
May 20, 2012

After months of prodding, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes finally released an expanded accounting of the nearly 100 perverts he says he has prosecuted in the borough's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

He showed The Post summaries of 96 cases, that reveal a shocking pattern of rape, sodomy, incest, kidnapping and sex attacks on children.

Hynes says that he has pursued scores of predators through a program called Kol Tzedek, Hebrew for "voice of justice," launched in 2009, and has put some despicable offenders in prison for years.

But many avoided stiff jail sentences with wrist-slap plea deals, several got no punishment, and others had charges dropped or reduced after victims backed out under community pressure.

Hynes still refused to name the defendants, insisting his unusual policy protects victims and their families from intimidation by supporters of the creeps who "don't give a damn about victims."

"The Mafia breaks legs or kills people, but [there's] not the constant vilification that these people have to suffer," he said.

The Post identified many of the cases after reviewing the summaries, which did not reveal sentences.

One involved social worker Yona Weinberg, a bar mitzvah tutor sentenced to a year in jail after he molested four boys, one in a synagogue's ritual bath.

Another defendant repeatedly raped his own 8-year-old daughter and was convicted of a Class B felony, which carries up to 25 years in jail.

A third pervert, Brooklyn Rabbi Gershon Kranczer, fled to Israel after charges that he and his three sons repeatedly molested four young girls at the children's home in Midwood. One whom told of being attacked for 15 years.

A serial groper grabbed the buttocks of five strangers on the street in 2009, leading to his guilty plea to forcible touching, a misdemeanor.

The jury is out on Hynes' scorecard: 43 of the cases are still pending.

His records say 13 cases were dismissed and five defendants went to trial, with four convictions and one acquittal. Another 35 took plea deals.

The cases involved 123 victims, including 91 underage boys and girls, with seven allegations of rape, 21 of sodomy and 67 of sexual abuse.

The "vast majority" of the suspects are Orthodox Jewish; the others molested members of that community, Hynes' office said.

In response to sharp criticism from former Mayor Ed Koch, Hynes agreed to form a task force with investigators from his office and the NYPD to find ways to bust those who threaten victims if they come forward.

But Hynes says victims too afraid to allege sex abuse are unlikely to cooperate. Sources said the DA's rackets bureau has asked two complainants to wear hidden recorders. Neither went through with it including a father who told of pressure to drop charges that his son was molested by Meir Descalowitz, whose case is pending until he is declared mentally fit for trial.

Another dad, whose son was abused for five years by family friend Michael Sabo, praised the DA's "very aggressive" response.

"Based on what I told them, they got a search warrant and arrested him in three days." Sabo's computers were loaded with child porn, and "he didn't have time to get rid of it."

The father also supports Hynes' withholding of suspects' names until the family is ready, saying it shields them from gossip and questions.

The case ended with one of Hynes' biggest convictions.

Sabo, a 38-year-old nurse nurse in Marine Park, pleaded guilty on May 7 to assaulting the son and a girl from another family also willing to testify. He faces 20 years to life.

Critics still claim Hynes hasn't done enough. "He is now scrambling to respond to criticism," said activist Ben Hirsch, a co-founder of Survivors for Justice.

"Advocates and victims have been begging Hynes to take these cases since 2006. "We've had to pressure him to prosecute almost every one."

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes says he's prosecuted 96 sex-assault suspects in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community since 2009. Of 53 closed cases, 13 were dismissed, 35 ended in plea deals and five went to trial, resulting in four convictions and one acquittal. High-profile cases include:


Emanuel Yegutkin, 53, the principal of a top private high school and a volunteer summer lifeguard from Ocean Parkway, is charged with repeatedly molesting three young sons of his closest friend, starting when they were as young as 7. The defendant, a politically connected figure, is pressing Hynes to drop the case, claiming a

"false confession."


Joseph "Uncle Joe" Passof, a retired city schoolteacher and camp counselor, was charged in March with sneaking up on a 5-year-old boy and assaulting him in a day-camp bathroom in Flatbush Park in front of another boy last summer. The top count, for a criminal sexual act with a child under 11, is a felony that carries five to 25 years in jail.


Nechemya Weberman, 53, an unlicensed therapist, has been charged with forcing a 16-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him during counseling sessions. The victim claims the abuse began when she was 12. Supporters of Weberman clashed with protesters at a demonstration in Williamsburg last week. Hynes said the case illustrates the way that many in the community vilify victims.


Another rabbi, Baruch Lebovits, 61, allegedly sodomized two teen boys and sexually abused a third. He was convicted of molesting one victim in 2010. He was serving 10 to 32 years in jail when an appeals panel overturned the verdict which had been one of Hynes' biggest achievements in March. Hynes vows to retry him.


Brooklyn Rabbi Gershon Kranczer ducked justice. He fled to Israel after he and his three sons were charged with molesting four young girls at the kids' home in Midwood. One girl told of abuse over 15 years. Hynes' office unsuccessfully sought extradition.


Brooklyn Rabbi Joel Kolko, 65, who struck a no-jail plea in 2006 for abusing three kids, now faces charges he violated a court order of protection from one of his accusers. Cops say the creep moved in near the boy's family, snapped his photo and leered at him. The boy's father said he got a call warning to "back off or you'll suffer the consequences." The trial has been repeatedly delayed.



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