Zugibe: Injured child's family won't cooperate
Mar 9, 2013
SPRING VALLEY — The legal clock is ticking on whether prosecutors can bring charges against a religious school principal accused of slapping a 10-year-old student hard enough to cause swelling of the child’s eye, ear and face.
Unless the child signs a formal complaint, the police-issued misdemeanor assault charge against Rabbi Nathan Spitzer might have to be dropped, Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said.
Zugibe said the District Attorney’s Office has 60 days since the police complaint was signed on Feb. 21 to get an affidavit against the principal of the United Talmudical Academy on Madison Avenue.
The deadline is April 22. Spitzer, 59, a longtime educator who lives in Brooklyn, faces his first scheduled court appearance on two misdemeanor counts in Spring Valley on April 4.
“We need cooperation to move ahead,” Zugibe said Friday. “The complaint signed by the police officer is considered hearsay and we cannot legally proceed on that. We need an affidavit signed by the child.”
So far, the family has not cooperated with the Spring Valley police and prosecution, Zugibe said, as far as he knew.
Spitzer and the school have declined comment. Spitzer’s lawyer, James Licata, also has declined comment. Licata is the county’s chief public defender, but the rabbi is a private client.
Spring Valley police learned about the Feb. 12 incident after a doctor reported the boy’s swollen face, eye and ear, authorities said.
A doctor is mandated by law to report signs of abuse to the police. So are teachers, nurses and school officials.
Spring Valley police Detective Kevin Freeman filed a criminal complaint charging Spitzer with third-degree assault, accusing him of intending to physically harm the child.
A second complaint charges Spitzer with endangering the welfare of a child.
Spitzer slapped the boy “numerous times on the left side of his face and left ear,” the complaint said.
The incident had been reported on some blogs that cater to the ultra-Orthodox community.
One blog posted purported photographs of the boy’s face.
There is evidence the family and the boy have been pressured by community leaders not to cooperate, authorities said. Many times, families can be ostracized and their children ejected from schools for going outside the religious community and reporting criminal matters.
The UTA is the educational arm of Satmar Hasidim and runs several schools in Brooklyn and suburban counties including Rockland and Orange. The village of Kiryas Joel is a Satmar community in Monroe in Orange County.
Corporal punishment for misbehaving students is not taboo in religious schools, but beating a child is not tolerated, said Yossi Gestetner, a Monsey parent who does public relations for the religious community and political commentary.
“If a kid gets slapped here or there, most people in the community will not have a problem with it,” Gestetner said. “They may want to be told. But children coming home from school black and blue, there is no support for that. There’s no support for allowing boys or girls to be physically abused.”
Gestetner said he is not privy to the case involving Spitzer.
Gestetner said religious schools generally want to handle personnel issues in private.
He said, for example, he knows of one school where parents complained about the teacher being “slap happy” with the children. The school, Gestetner said, after deliberation hired a classroom aide to work with the teacher, rather than dismissing him.
“There is a great debate or divide within the community on how to proceed in the case of a principal or teacher who does hit children,” Gestetner said. “If a principal or teacher does something considered against the law, you can have a reasonable debate and find a way to resolve the situation.”
Posted by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg at 3/10/2013
Something Is Rotten In Monsey
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg