By Joanna Molloy (NY Daily News)
December 11, 2012
The jurors made an error of form Monday as they announced their verdict in the Nechemya Weberman child-molestation case, and it was a telling one.
“Guilty!” the eight women and four men repeated in unison several times, as the court clerk began reading each the 59 counts of sexual abuse of a minor he was charged with.
“No, ladies and gentleman,” Judge John Ingram admonished. “Just your foreman is supposed to deliver your verdicts.”
They’d only needed 90 minutes Monday to deliberate, and they seemed resoundingly united in their certainty.
Weberman, a 54-year-old man who’d touted himself in the Satmar ultra-Orthodox community as the go-to rabbinical counselor for rebellious teenage girls, sat stone-faced as the word “guilty” tolled like a funeral bell 59 times as Hasidic men davened in the pews.
When court officers hauled Weberman away in cuffs, he didn’t even glance at his wife, the mother of his 10 children who’d been in the courtroom every day.
It was something that made you think, “Guilty? Yeah, he is.”
Not even top criminal defense lawyers Michael Farkas and Stacey Richman could convince the jury otherwise.
Not with prosecutor Kevin O’Donnell showing them the wicked web Weberman wove around a lot of things, like buying lingerie with funds from his supposed charity for poor children.
Weberman’s answer went from “No” to “Maybe” real quick when O’Donnell said, “Perhaps this will refresh your memory” and he showed him the credit card bills.
Weberman also denied being caught by a witness with an erection while another teenage runaway, Giddy Gluck, sat on his lap. He’d had Gluck sleeping on a foldout bed in his office for two years.
So when Farkas asked Weberman if he had molested his 18-year-old accuser — a Satmar girl who’d told the jury he’d sexually violated her from the age of 12 — and Weberman said, “Never, ever,” they didn’t believe him.
Why should they?
Yes, it took this girl several years to come forward, as happens with many victims of sexual abuse.
And yes, there was no DNA evidence, as one alternate juror had complained after being excused before the rest of the jury deliberated.
And there was no video corroborating any of her claims.
But when these Brooklyn jurors, who have an unparalleled street sense, heard the girl describe how the overweight old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather Weberman sexually violated her weekly for more than two years while she was virtually a prisoner in his care, her story rang true.
And when they considered how hard it must have been for her to cross the secretive Satmar patriarchy — which even now is considering shipping recalcitrant girls off to Israel rather than sending them to licensed female therapists — her story rang even truer.
And as the word “guilty” rang out through the courtroom again and again, you knew that with each one of those acts he was charged for, Weberman had taken away another part of this girl’s childhood innocence, something that can never be restored, and something that she will have to cope with her whole adult life as she tries to have a normal marriage.
The loss of innocence is so enormous that the Old Testament writer likened it to being thrown out of paradise.
Weberman had to know this only too well.