By Juliet Papa (CBS News NY)
June 21, 2012
Four men have been charged with intimidating witnesses in an Ultra-Orthodox sex abuse case involving a spiritual adviser accused of molesting a teenage girl for years, according to prosecutors.
The men apparently tried to bribe the boyfriend of the young accuser with $500,000 in an attempt to get the alleged victim to drop the charges against Rabbi Nechemya Weberman or move to Israel, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said Thursday.
The boyfriend refused to accept the money and instead went to authorities, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.
The men also allegedly threatened to shut down the boyfriend's Kosher restaurant, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported.
The men pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges including witness intimidation and coercion. The district attorney said it's the first prosecution in 20 years in which defendants are charged with intimidating witnesses in a sex abuse case.
Bail has been set at $75,000 for Abraham Rubin and $5,000 for brothers Jacob, Joseph and Hertzka Berger.
"They all deny the allegations. They are obviously going to be fighting these charges vehemently," Bruce Wenger, Hertzka Berger's attorney, told CBS 2's John Slattery.
Weberman, 53, is accused of raping and abusing the girl for nearly three years starting when she was 12 years old. The girl is now 17.
Weberman has pleaded not guilty to committing a criminal sex act, rape, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse.
"This was an attempt to buy the silence of Weberman's victim as well as another witness who knew what she had gone through," District Attorney Hynes said.
Last month in Williamsburg, supporters of Weberman ralled to raise funds for his legal defense. With charges now against four supporters, attorney Michael Farkas told CBS 2's Slattery, "Mr Weberman had no prior knowledge of or involvement with these deplorable acts, which, if proven to be true, are reprehensible."
The indictments come at a time when Hynes has been under fire for refusing to name charged abusers to protect victims and their families from being ostracized by the community.
The case comes out of the task force Hynes put together to address witness intimidation issues in sex crime cases in Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.