By Josh Saul (NY Post)
December 6, 2012
Prosecutors say he was a feared power broker in the most insular of Orthodox Jewish sects in Brooklyn who thought he could get away with anything — including the alleged sexual abuse of a 12 year old girl.
That’s the argument an impassioned assistant district attorney made to jurors today as the nearly two-week-long sex abuse trial of Hasidic counselor Nechemya Weberman drew to a close.
“What happens in the defendant’s office stays in the defendant’s office,” prosecutor Linda Weinman said, referring to the secrecy surrounding the small room where Weberman, 54, allegedly forced himself on the girl — and where he also admittedly hosted other pretty young Satmar women.
Prosecutors argued the now 18-year-old alleged victim was terrified to report the three years of abuse because of Weberman’s exalted status in the cloistered Satmar sect in Williamsburg.
“Who’s going to believe a 12-year-old girl?” Weinman said in Brooklyn Supreme Court. “She was afraid. She believed he was a member of Vaad Ha’Tnius.”
Weberman has denied he was ever a member of Vaad Ha’Tnius, the modesty committee that enforces Satmar rules and dress codes — and in her closing remarks, his lawyer downplayed his power among the ultra-Orthodox.
“They want you to believe Mr. Weberman is the Vaad-Father,” quipped attorney Stacey Richman, who compared the prosecution of her client to the Salem witch trials and the Red Scare of the 1950s.
“If Mr. Weberman’s so powerful, why can’t he keep [her] in school?” Richman said, referring to the multiple schools the teen was asked to leave while receiving counseling from Weberman.
Richman also hammered away at the prosecution’s lack of physical evidence.
“The only evidence in this case is the word of [the alleged victim.] That’s it,” Richman said, questioning why years of frequent alleged sexual abuse failed to leave any emails, witnesses or DNA.
“Three years of oral sex? That’s a lot of semen!” she said.
“We’ve all seen ‘CSI,’ Richman said, referring to the TV crime lab show. “DNA lasts forever.”
Richman repeated the defense argument that the teen falsely accused Weberman because she was angry he told her father she had an older boyfriend.
Judge John Ingram barred the defense from telling the jury that her father then secretly filmed the couple having sex and used the footage to have the boyfriend arrested for statutory rape, infuriating the teen.
“He listened to her. He was truly her friend. But when she found that she had been betrayed, she went wild,” Richman said. “It’s all about revenge.”
Prosecutors scoffed at the notion that the teen had an ulterior motive for reporting Weberman.
“She said, ‘I had a responsibility. I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I went through,’” Weinman said, quoting the teen’s testimony last week. “Those are not the words of someone seeking revenge. They are words of pain.”
Richman also used the OJ defense tactic of, If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit, showing photos of a faulty lock on a door the victim claims locked her inside Weberman’s office
“It doesn’t fit. It never fit,” Richman said.
Hasidic women in wigs supporting Weberman buried their heads in their hands and prayed when prosecutors described graphic sexual acts. One prayed so loudly a court officer shushed her.
The jury will begin its deliberations tomorrow. Court will end early for the Jewish Sabbath.