Prosecutors recommend 17-year sentence for rabbi accused of voyeurism

By Alison Knezevich
Baltimore Sun
May 8, 2015

Rabbi Barry Freundel, who pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15. Prosecutors are recommending a 17-year sentence.

Prosecutors are recommending a 17-year prison sentence for a rabbi and former Towson University professor who admitted he secretly videotaped dozens of women as they prepared for a Jewish ritual bath.

Rabbi Barry Freundel is scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. Superior Court on May 15. In February, he pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, acknowledging that he used cameras hidden in a clock radio, a tissue box and a tabletop fan to record women at the National Capital Mikvah between 2012 and 2014.

Each of the misdemeanor voyeurism counts carries a maximum penalty of up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $2,500.

In a sentencing memorandum filed Friday, prosecutors recommend four months of incarceration for each count — a total of 208 months — calling that "reasonable and just punishment for this severe conduct that falls on the extreme end of the voyeurism spectrum."

An attorney for Freundel could not be reached to comment Friday. When Freundel pleaded guilty, defense lawyer Jeffrey Harris said the rabbi took responsibility for his actions and now understands they were "terribly wrong."

Freundel had taught courses on topics including ethics and religion at Towson University since 2009. He resigned after he pleaded guilty. Kesher Israel synagogue fired him late last year.

In the court document filed Friday, prosecutors describe in detail how Freundel abused his power as a prominent Orthodox rabbi and exploited women's trust in him, causing deep trauma when the women learned of his actions. They say he lived a "double life, breaking the rules he so hollowly and arrogantly entreated others to follow."

"The defendant's exploitation seems to have no bounds," prosecutors wrote. "His creation of opportunities to record victims extended to the truly abhorrent. Victims who had confided past sexual abuse and other painful personal experiences to the defendant were encouraged to use the mikvah for spiritual healing."

The rabbi created an elaborate system to organize footage from the hidden cameras, meticulously labeling video segments with women's initials or names, prosecutors allege in the memo.

"It is obvious from the sheer volume of recordings and the elaborate filing system he created that the defendant spent hundreds and hundreds of hours watching and otherwise organizing the videos of the naked victims," they wrote.

The memo also states that the rabbi secretly recorded a woman who was fleeing from an abusive marriage, using devices hidden in the bedroom and bathroom of an apartment he helped her find.

Prosecutors allege that Freundel had more than 150 victims since 2009, but say they only charged him for 52 because the statute of limitations for voyeurism in Washington is three years.

Steven J. Kelly, a Baltimore attorney representing some of the victims, said the sentencing recommendation shows that prosecutors are taking Freundel's actions "very seriously."

Because Freundel has not been convicted of voyeurism before, "the sentencing guidelines would treat him as a first-time offender," Kelly said.

At sentencing, victims are expected to testify about how Freundel's crimes hurt them.

"I think it's going to be very hard for the victims," Kelly said. "And it should be hard for him because a lot of these people are going to take him to task for what he's done."



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