By Oren Yaniv (NY Daily News)
June 21, 2012
Four Hasidic men were accused Thursday of intimidating witnesses — and one allegedly offered a half-million dollars — so a sex abuse case against a prominent Jewish counselor would "go away," Brooklyn prosecutors said.
They are charged with trying to derail the upcoming trial against Nechemya Weberman, 53, who's accused of molesting a 12-year-old girl.
"We won't tolerate the illegal interference with the administration of justice in this county," said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. "Not only will sexual predators be caught and punished, but those who attempt to illegally protect them by witness intimidation will be prosecuted."
The DA, who came under fire for mishandling sex abuse cases in the insular Orthodox community, convened a panel last month to combat harassment. This is the first prosecution to result from that, he said.
Abraham Rubin, 48, is accused of offering $500,000 to the alleged victim, who's now 17, and to her boyfriend, in an attempt to buy their silence. Rubin is facing up to seven years in prison for bribery and tampering.
When Rubin communicated with the victim and her boyfriend, "there are references about going abroad to Israel, telling people to forget what they know, to disappear," prosecutor Josh Hanshaft said during a hearing Thursday at Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Brothers Jacob, Joseph and Hertzka Berger were charged with coercion for threatening the accuser and telling her boyfriend last month they will remove the kosher certification from his restaurant, prosecutors said. When that didn't work, Jacob Berger allegedly tore the certificate down.
Hynes praised the boyfriend as "a tough guy" for being willing to come forward.
"I have done something that should have been done in this community many years ago," the boyfriend, Hershy Deutsch, 24, told the Daily News. "I know I did the right thing and (spoke) truthfully so our future will be protected."
The Williamsburg community leader was collared in February 2011 and charged with forcing the girl to perform sex acts. His trial was supposed to open last week but was pushed back at least a month.
Hynes said he has no evidence that Weberman or anyone from his circle is connected to the alleged intimidation. And attorneys for the counselor vehemently denied his involvement.
"We denounce any effort to undermine the legitimate court process in this or any case," said lawyer Michael Farkas.
The four tampering suspects pleaded not guilty Thursday in a courtroom filled with relatives and supporters.
"The community stands behind them one hundred percent," said Michael Elbaz, a lawyer for Joseph Berger.
Rubin was released on $75,000 bail and the Berger brothers, who face mostly misdemeanor counts, were released on $5,000 each.
With Simone Weichselbaum