By Oren Yaniv (NY Daily News)
December 5, 2012
A prominent Hasidic counselor said he “never ever” sexually assaulted a beautiful Brooklyn girl, and testified he didn’t know anything about lingerie bought by a charity he founded.
Nechemya Weberman, taking the stand in a child-sex-abuse case, acknowledged Wednesday that he founded a charity and used it to pay for his salary and his kids’ education.
Weberman stands accused of forcing a Brooklyn teen to perform oral sex, as well as watch and reenact porn, over a three-year period, beginning when she was 12.
The 54-year-old defendant testified he did not inappropriately touch the alleged victim, who turned 18 Wednesday.
Prosecutors also raised the specter that Weberman may have sexually abused other teens — allegations that were also denied in court.
Presenting himself as a “rabbinical counselor,” Weberman, said he started a not-for-profit organization called B’lev V’nefesh, Hebrew for “in heart and soul,” around 2000. He said it was used to raise money for those who can’t afford his services.
He was then confronted with financial records showing that the charity’s credit cards were used at BMG Corset & Lingerie, The Lingerie Shop and other undergarment stores.
“Me, myself, I’m not aware of this,” Weberman said. “This is the first time I heard about it.”
The charity — whose only principals are the defendant and his wife, Chaya Golda — was also used to pay tuition for the private Satmar yeshiva their kids attended and for Weberman’s salary. In one month, expenses came close to $12,000, a prosecutor said.
“Did you use this not-for-profit for your own personal gain?” Assistant District Attorney Kevin O’Donnell asked him.
“Yes, I did,” Weberman replied.
Also Wednesday, a woman named Baila Gluck, 23, testified about residing at Weberman’s home office for a couple of years as a teen. She stayed in the same apartment as the alleged victim in the case being tried had claimed she was forced to perform oral sex and reenact porn starting in 2007.
Gluck said after she had no place to stay following troubles at home, “He offered (for me) to come live at his house.” She added that during her time there, two other girls occasionally stayed in the flat.
One of those girls has told authorities she caught Weberman and Gluck in a compromising position. That person refused to testify for fear of retribution, a source said.
But Gluck, asked if one of the girls ever walked in and saw her sitting on Weberman’s lap while he had an erection, replied “No.”
She also denied being taken by Weberman to buy lingerie and bras and also a claim that she told the other housemate, when discussing the counselor, “I had to do what I had to do to get by.”
Weberman, a father of 10, spent about four hours on the stand and was the final witness in the high-profile trial.
The defendant, a well-regarded member of the Satmar sect, was once the driver of Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum, he testified.
The insular group split into two after its leader’s death in 2006 and the counselor agreed he’s one of only a handful of people who are respected by both warring factions.
Children who had issues following the sect’s strict rules would be referred to him by schools or rabbis, he said, and he would then charge their parents about $150 an hour to counsel them.
In her testimony last week, the alleged victim testified she objected to the sect’s stringent dress code, which required thicker tights than she cared to wear.
When he first counseled the teen who brought the charges against him, “She was very quiet, looking down, closed in,” Weberman said. She slowly opened up, he added, discussing religious questions and problems she had at school and her home.
“At the beginning, we spoke a lot and I spent a lot of time with her to understand what bothers her,” he said. Weberman acknowledged the sessions cost her parents tens of thousands of dollars.
He was asked by his lawyer about the aim of the counseling sessions.
“To save her life,” Weberman replied.