By Steve Lieberman (The Journal News)
January 18, 2013
NEW CITY — Two members of Rockland’s Orthodox Jewish community have pleaded guilty to charges of sexually abusing children, heartening children protection advocates who have been pushing for increased awareness and prosecutions of such cases. A third man is facing pre-trial hearings in County Court.
A 58-year-old Monsey man admitted in court Friday that he had anal sex with a 14-year-old boy.
The admission came after a judge promised the man a sentence of 10 years’ probation to spare the child from having to testify.
Moishe Turner of 5 Dana Road, a heavy-set man with a long beard streaked with gray, had been accused of having anal and oral sex with the boy on seven occasions during July 2011.
Turner was the second person who avoided incarceration this week by pleading guilty to a sexual crime involving a child. He’s been free on $75,000 bail and awaits sentencing March 19.
Herschel Taubenfeld, 33, once a teacher in the New Square Hasidic community, admitted forcible touching a young boy during 2011. The admission came in exchange for six years’ probation on a misdemeanor charge handled in New Square Justice Court.
Taubenfeld originally had been charged in December 2011 with with 10 counts of forcible touching, 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and 10 counts of third-degree sex abuse, all misdemeanors.
Another man, Dovid Kohn of Monsey, 59, faces 40 criminal counts of having oral sex with a girl when she was between 12 and 15.
Kohn is currently challenging telephone conversations between him and the girl taped by police as inaudible at pretrial hearings in Rockland County Court. Prosecutors and Ramapo police said the girl, now in her 20s, remains a witness in the case.
Shmuel Dym, 32, of Monsey is fighting his guilty plea to sexually molesting a boy. Supreme Court Justice William Kelly has twice turned down Dym’s request to withdraw his guilty plea.
The increased prosecution of sex attacks on children within the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox community has been welcomed by advocates for children. The advocates said police and prosecutors are just skimming the surface, arguing there are unreported sexual attacks on children.
"The epidemic of child-molestation threatens an entire generation of children,” said Monsey-based Rabbi Noson Leiter, founder of Help Rescue Our Children. “Many of these molesters are arrogant, narcissistic, deceptive, and downright evil. Even though some of them appear unable to control themselves, that is because of choices they repeatedly and intentionally made.”
Leiter, a leader of Torah Jews for Decency in Monsey, said Taubenfeld’s guilty plea “is a trail-blazing case — the first in which a survivor from within New Square prosecuted a molester within the community.”
He said he hopes other families will find the strength to come forward and fight off community pressure not to report sexual abuse. He praised the Ramapo police for their efforts when told about children being abused.
"Taubenfeld's own admission to molestation charges also confirms that current New Square leadership who clearly failed to stop this vile, manipulative ‘educator’ and is unqualified to deal with the molestation crisis,” Leiter said.
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the religious community has been more open with police and prosecutors. He said historically the major issue confronting law enforcement was the “insular community often protected the accused at the expense of the victims.”
Zugibe said he was encouraged by the Taubenfeld case. He said families in the religious community have “recognized finally that if you protect the victims all you are doing is creating a new generation of offenders and victims.”
“In the latest cases, particularly Taubenfeld, I have to credit the community for being more forthcoming,” Zugibe said. “We have a long way to go. I am hopeful this is a new trend.”
Families face being kicked out of the religious community and having their children denied schooling and services.
The family of the boy abused by Turner faced pressure from the community leaders to drop out of the case, authorities said.
Prosecutor Jennifer Parietti said Friday in court that Zugibe approved the no-prison sentence for Turner.
Turner faced seven years in state prison under the felony charge. The case was down for a pretrial hearing with Ramapo Detectives Peg Braddock and Robert Fitzgerald ready to testify.
She told Kelly that she supported the sentence “to spare this victim the difficulties of the trial.”
“The victim is under tremendous pressure,” she said. “This plea will relieve that.”
Turner admitted he had anal sex with the boy under questioning from Parietti in July 2011. He admitted he knew the boy was 14, making him incapable of consent under the law.
Turner’s lawyer, former District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, said after court that he’s not aware of any rabbi or religious community leader putting pressure of the boy or his family.
“Our hope is the victim can go on with his life,” Gribetz said. “There was no pressure from the community. I think justice will be served. Our client is very sorry and he’s happy to put this behind him.”
Turner, who prayed before court, doesn’t speak fluent English. He speaks Yiddish and needed a translator to tell him what was being discussed in court and for his responses.
Kelly and Gribetz made sure Turner agreed he was voluntarily pleading guilty to the charges and signed a waiver giving up his right to appeal.