By Jose Martinez (NY Post)
June 22, 2012
The law didn't apply to them — or so they thought.
Four ultra-Orthodox Jewish men were busted yesterday for trying to make a sensational sex-abuse case against a prominent Brooklyn rabbi vanish by intimidating potential witnesses in his upcoming trial.
"No one can engage in this kind of conduct and feel free that, based on prior experience, nothing is going to happen," said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who's come under heavy criticism for his handling of cases involving alleged perverts from the ultra-Orthodox community.
"Intimidation of victims and witnesses in sex-abuse cases in the Orthodox community is what has made prosecuting these cases so difficult," Hynes said.
Abraham Rubin, 48, was charged with offering a $500,000 bribe to a young woman and her boyfriend so they could "basically disappear" and leave the country, after they had accused Rabbi Nechemya Weberman of molesting her during spiritual- counseling sessions when she was 12.
"He has no regard for the system," Assistant District Attorney Josh Hanshaft said of Rubin. "He thumbed his nose at the system."
Brothers Joseph, Jacob and Hertzka Berger also were charged with trying to silence the pair by threatening to strip away a rabbi's kosher certification from the boyfriend's restaurant.
When the boyfriend refused, prosecutors said, Jacob Berger ripped down the seal anyway.
"They have gone and destroyed property, they made threatening phone calls," Hanshaft said. "They do what they have to do for the case to go away."
The splashy arrests in Williamsburg's ultra-Orthodox community were announced as Hynes continues taking heat for refusing to identify alleged sexual offenders in the close-knit community, for fear that accusers will be outed and ostracized.
"If you're dealing with organized crime, which is another group of intimidators, at least I can offer a witness who's threatened or intimidated an opportunity to go into witness protection," Hynes said.
"That's not an option for people who live and are part of this culture."
The four men were led in handcuffs into a courtroom packed with ultra-Orthodox supporters from a community that also has held large rallies to raise funds for Weberman's legal defense.
"The community stands behind them 100 percent," said Michael Elbaz, a defense lawyer for Joseph Berger.
Hynes said investigators could find no evidence of a connection between the four men and Weberman, whose own lawyer said he was in the dark on their alleged efforts to silence witnesses.
"Mr. Weberman had no prior knowledge of or any involvement with these deplorable acts, which, if proven to be true, are reprehensible," said George Farkas, a lawyer for the 53-year-old accused child molester.
"Mr. Weberman has stated from the beginning that no one should be subjected to any kind of harassment," Farkas said.
The start of Weberman's sex-abuse trial was delayed last week after his lawyers said a yeshiva he was affiliated with repeatedly ignored requests for information.