May 16, 2012
In an op-ed in todays NY Daily News, Brooklyn DA Hynes responds to criticisms, insisting he has done no wrong.But the facts refute Hynes:
1. About half the cases Hynes claimed as Kol Tzedek cases were not. The Jewish Week, the Guardian and the New York Times have shown this clearly and Hynes and his office have not made any attempt to refute that data.
2. Agudah's Zwiebel claims Hynes did not oppose Agudah's policy of having haredi rabbis vet all cases of suspected child sexual abuse and determine if those cases should be reported to police, the D.A. or ACS when Zwiebel told him about it face to face last summer, and Hynes has never denied that meeting took place. He has also never expressly said Zwiebel is lying.
What Hynes has said is clear, if you read carefully. Note the words I've put in bold italic type:
The suggestion that I have ever condoned the practice of first seeking a rabbi's advice before an Orthodox Jewish community member reports sexual abuse is a distortion of my record. I have never suggested that someone seeking the advice of a rabbi is then relieved of the obligation of reporting sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities.
Although I would not interfere with anyone's decision to speak to their religious leader, I also expect allegations of criminal conduct to be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. My concern that some rabbis might advise those with knowledge of sexual abuse to withhold information from law enforcement is another reason why, with the assistance of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Ohel and the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, I created Kol Tzedek in the first place....
On the record, Zwiebel will tell you that if you witness sexual abuse of a child taking place, or in certain other situations where it is absolutely clear that a child has been sexually assaulted, you do not need to ask a rabbi anything. Just call police.
The reporting issue is a problem for Agudah and other haredim when what you have are suspicions or evidence that seem to show that the child in question was sexually abused, but you did not witness that abuse take place. If these suspicions have legs – raglayim l'davar in halakhic terms, enough to them to be credible, police or ACS should be called. But who decides if bloody underwear, or serious and unexplained behavioral issues with a certain type of presentation, etc., is raglayim l'davar or not? Agudah wants its rabbis to make that judgement in each case of suspected child sexual abuse.
But note Hynes' language. He writes about reporting "sexual abuse," "knowledge of sexual abuse," and "allegations of criminal conduct."
But Hynes says nothing about suspicions of child sexual abuse or about evidence that points to, but does not conclusively prove, child sexual abuse.
These suspicions and this almost but not quite conclusive physical evidence are the norm in most cases of child sexual abuse. Hynes knows that Agudah makes this distinction between confirmed child sexual abuse and suspected child sexual abuse, yet he does not address this, and the language he chose to use allows Zwiebel and Hynes to be in agreement, and you not to know it.
Also note that Hynes does not use the term "child sexual abuse" or the term pedophilia. Mandatory reporting laws cover minor children – child sexual abuse, pedophilia. But they don't cover adults (unless the adult is mentally handicapped or otherwise vulnerable). When an adult is raped or fondled, that is "sexual abuse" but not "child sexual abuse."
3. Hynes' claim that "the Orthodox Jewish community, including Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive director of Agudath Israel, understands that if anyone attempts to obstruct a criminal inquiry about sexual abuse in the community, I will not hesitate to prosecute," is laughable. Witness tampering and harassment is common in child sexual abuse criminal cases and in child sexual abuse civil cases. But Hynes has not prosecuted anyone for it. (The Jewish Week has a piece on this very issue that was just posted last night.)
4. Hynes' claim that he cannot by law release the names of accused haredi pedophiles or convicted haredi pedophiles has been rejected by every other D.A. and the legal scholars asked to comment on it.
5. Hynes writes that, "I am also opposed to releasing a list of names of defendants based upon their particular ethnic, racial or religious affiliation. It is not the policy of this office to keep a list of defendants categorized in this manner." Yet Hynes does keep such a list! He counts all the haredi suspects and defendants as part of Kol Tzedek and touts the total names on that Kol Tzedek list to the media!
6. Hynes writes about "victims of sexual assault within the Orthodox Jewish community" but he never uses the words, "child," "children," kid," "kids," "minor," or "minor" in his article. Again, this means that Hynes has carefully parsed his words to avoid dealing directly with child sexual abuse – and the mandatory reporting laws that govern reporting it.
7. His clain the Kol Tzedek is vital is quite odd. CBS 2 just called the Kol Tzedek hotline 25 times over a period of days and varied times. The phone was only answered twice. And victims have very publicly claimed that the D.A.'s office, Kol Tzedek included, does not help them.
Hynes has quite cleverly written a deceptive piece that lies to the very citizens of Brooklyn he is legally obligated to protect.
He should be investigated, and the political corruption he embraces should be ended with federal prosecutions and prison sentences.