Matt Williams and Zoë Blackler (The Guardian)
May 12, 2012
In a statement to the New York Times, a spokesman said Bloomberg "completely disagrees" with the decision by district attorney Charles Hynes not to hold to greater account powerful rabbinical leaders accused of helping cover up instances of abuse.
The systematic refusal by some ultra-Othodox Jews to cooperate with secular justices has been held responsible for child sex offenders being shielded from the law, as the Guardian first reported in March.
Despite growing criticism from victims' advocates, Hynes has continues to defend his actions, notably his refusal to publicly name suspects or challenge rabbinical leaders who urge members of the community to inform them of any abuse before going to the police.
Questions have also been raised over the number of arrests for which Hynes has claimed responsibility, and the alleged intimidation of victims and family members who have reported abuse to secular authorities.
On Thursday, Hynes – whose jurisdiction includes the world's largest ultra-Orthodox community outside Israel – told the Guardian: "The Brooklyn DA has the most active investigation [and] prosecution of any Orthodox members in the country. In LA or any major centre of Orthodox communities, there are no prosecutions."
He went on to deny that he was giving special treatment to ultra-Orthodox offenders by not naming them, stating that it was necessary to protect victims in the close-knit Brooklyn community.
The DA is also facing mounting pressure to clamp down on the intimidation of those speaking out.
Influential leaders within the community are said to have told observing ultra-Orthodox Jews that they must obtain permission from a rabbi before reporting allegations of abuse to the police.
As a result, many victims have been reluctant to come forward, while those who do, often fail to cooperate with prosecutors in the event that the case reaches court, victim advocates have claimed.
Commenting on the issue, Marc LaVorgna, the spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, told the New York Times: "Any abuse allegations should be brought to law enforcement, who are trained to assess their accuracy and act appropriately."
It has been alleged that the reluctance by Hynes to bring more prosecutions may be out of fear of losing a powerful voting bloc.
The Brooklyn DA's office has claimed that there has been 92 arrest made as part of the controversial Kol Tzedek outreach programme, launched in 2009 to encourage victims of abuse to come forward.
Hynes has described the hotlines as a "tremendous success". But advocacy groups say that the number of those detained by authorities has been inflated to put the programme in a better light.
At least nine of the arrests claimed to be part of the operation stem from before its launch. Challenged by the Guardian on the matter, Hynes was dismissive.
"Tell you what: maybe 92 less nine," he said.
Requests for more information made by the Guardian, the Jewish Week, and the Jewish Forward newspaper under New York's freedom of information law have been turned down by the DA's office.