From By JOSH SAUL
Last Updated: 7:38 PM, November 26, 2012
Posted: 7:37 PM, November 26, 2012
The trial of a prominent Brooklyn rabbi accused of sexually abusing a young girl began in Brooklyn Supreme Court today with a focus on the strict rules of ultra-Orthodox Judaism.
Williamsburg rabbi Nechemya Weberman is charged with molesting a 12-year-old girl over three years after her parents sent her to him for counseling.
“It doesn’t sound like modern Brooklyn, it sounds like the Salem witch trials,” said assistant district attorney Kevin O’Donnell, describing how the alleged victim’s parents sent her to Weberman after she was chastised and shunned from the Satmar Hasidic community because she questioned authority and acted immodestly.
O’Donnell alleged that Weberman fondled the young girl in his office and forced her to perform oral sex on him, “Over and over again.”
Defense attorney George Farkas called the jury’s attention to the seeming strangeness to outsiders of Hasidic Judaism, warning jurors not to judge Weberman on his adherence to religious dictum.
“He looks different. He dresses different. He acts different than the rest of the citizenry,” Farkas said.
Weberman’s defense team has argued that the victim’s accusation stems from a bizarre incident where Weberman and her father secretly filmed her having sex with her boyfriend, then turned the tape over to authorities in an attempt to file statutory rape charges against the boyfriend.
“There was only one answer. Vengeance and revenge against Nechemya Weberman, to bring down him and the entire community he was a part of,” Farkas said yesterday, arguing that the victim accused Weberman to retaliate for the filming.
The prosecution even called an expert, Professor Allan Nadler of Drew University, as a witness to educate the jury on Orthodox Judaism.
“The Satmar community maintains very high standards of sexual modesty and reticence,” said Nadler.
The Satmar community has also held large fundraisers for Weberman’s defense, and four ultra-Orthodox men were busted for intimidating witnesses earlier this year. One of the men was charged with offering Weberman’s alleged victim $500,000 to leave the country and drop her accusation.
The courtroom was packed with many supporters of the alleged victim and a few Weberman supporters. The victim and her mother are expected to take the stand tomorrow.
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Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg
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