By Pervaiz Shallwani (Wall Street Journal)
December 10, 2012
A prominent ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor was found guilty Monday of sexually abusing a teenage girl over a three-year span — a rare win for prosecutors in an insular Brooklyn community they have long accused of keeping members quiet.
In a packed courtroom, the jury of four men and eight women found Nechemya Weberman, 54 years old, guilty on 59 counts of sexual abuse and child endangerment — the most serious that he sexually assaulted the young woman over a sustained period of time from when she was 12 to 15 years old.
Weberman faces up to the 25 years in prison on the most serious charges. His lawyers have said they plan to appeal the decision.
He was sent to prison awaiting sentencing on Jan. 9.
Defense attorney George Farkas said, “We firmly believe that the jury got an unfairly sanitized version of the facts. As a result, the truth did not come out, and the struggle clear an innocent man will continue in full force.”
The trial put the insular Satmar Hasidic community, an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism, under the spotlight, drawing overflow crowds that forced some to wait impatiently outside in hopes of getting a courtroom seat.
The two-week trial boiled down to the word of the victim — who is now 18 — against that of Weberman, with both taking the stand.
Prosecutors portrayed Weberman as an unlicensed counselor who served as a “power broker” who used his status in the community to gain access to young girls who were deemed problems for not following strict Satmar rules.
The young woman testified that Weberman sexually assaulted or inappropriately touched her during every session, locking the door and using his position to intimidate her
Weberman’s attorney’s painted a different picture, arguing that the young woman singled out their client and the Satmars because of its ultra-orthodox policies and questioned the consistency of her testimony.
Taking the stand in his own defense, Weberman testified that he “never ever” abused the girl.