One Arrest, Two Indictments: The Strange Case Of Alleged Haredi Extortionist Samuel Kellner

By Shmarya Rosenberg (
February 1, 2013

In April 2011, Samuel Kellner, a hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, was indicted for extortion – twice. Two completely separate indictments, two completely separate victims, both of whom are alleged pedophiles. But there is a hitch – despite the fact that both indictments were released to the media, only one indictment was actually filed by the District Attorney, and Kellner was only arraigned on the charges outlined in it. The other indictment was never used.

Prosecutors normally draft felony indictments only after a grand jury approves charges. At that point, an indictment is drafted, filed with the court and, often, released to the media.

And that is what appears to have happened with the indictment against Kellner for allegedly conspiring to extort Meyer Lebovits and for paying a witness to give false testimony – except the indictment the Brooklyn D.A. released to the media was an indictment on charges that Kellner extorted Meyer Lebovits' father Rabbi Baruch Lebovits.

But those charges make no sense.

Rabbi Baruch Lebovits had been convicted on child sexual abuse charges in 2010, about one year before the DA's two-indictment snafu against Kellner. (In April 2012, about one year after Kellner was charged with extorting him, Lebovits' conviction was overturned on a technicality that had nothing to do with the charges against Kellner. The DA says that Lebovits will be retried.)

The indictment alleges that Kellner had extorted Baruch Lebovits before Lebovits was tried and convicted, demanding large cash payments and threatening him physically. If Lebovits refused to pay off Kellner, Kellner supposedly threatened to bring false witnesses to the D.A. who would claim that Baruch Lebovits sexually assaulted them as children. Lebovits supposedly did not pay, and Kellner allegedly did bring a false witness to the D.A.. That false witness testified before two grand juries, but not at trial.

But Baruch Lebovits' attorneys did not raise the alleged Kellner extortion at trial – which is bizarre, if the extortion attempt actually happened. It would have been thrown doubt on the prosecution, perhaps enough doubt for the jury to find Lebovits not guilty. But Lebovits, his family and his high-priced highly skilled attorneys never mentioned it – probably because the alleged extortion attempt never happened.

Kellner was actually indicted--among other things-- for allegedly conspiring to extort Baruch Lebovits' son Meyer. Kellner again supposedly demanded money and threatened to bring false witnesses to the D.A. who would testify that Meyer Lebovits sexually assaulted them as children.

But this alleged attempted extortion took place in 2009 – well before before his father Baruch Lebovits' trial. But Meyer Lebovits did not tell the D.A. about it until May 2010 – after his father had been convicted.

Meyer Lebovits says he refused to pay Kellner. Yet nothing seems to have happened to Meyer Lebovits as a result.

In early 2011, Meyer Lebovits allegedly hired a private investigator and a team of drug abusers on the fringe of hasidic society to get documentation of Kellner’s attempted extortion. The team was headed by a man who was caught defrauding a casino and who alleged bragged at a party that he and his friends had gotten an abuse victim high on drugs and then videoed an interview with him for a fictitious movie they claimed to be making about the young man's life.

In the video, the victim is repeatedly asked questions meant to prove that Kellner was extorting Lebovits. But despite being very stoned, the victim's answers do not implicate Kellner, The Jewish Week reported.

(There's also other evidence against Kellner that appears to be untrue. Please see Hella Winston's piece in The Jewish Week for the the entire saga.)

Both indictments were drafted by the Brooklyn D.A.'s Rackets Bureau, which is headed by Michael Vecchione. Vecchione has been involved in a number of false convictions and has been strongly reprimanded by two federal judges for prosecuting a man on what clearly were trumped up charges. Vecchione coerced false witness testimony and knowingly violated the Brady Rule that mandates turning over exculpatory evidence to the accused. He's widely viewed as a thug who serves a different master than justice. Despite all this, Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes backs Vecchione without reservation.

There are two indictments against Samuel Kellner. Both have the same indictment number. Both appear to be based on lies. Only one indictment is actually in force, and the other – which appears never to have been in force – was sent to a few journalists by the D.A. anyway.

I'm told the D.A.'s spokesmen claim that was caused by a computer glitch. But a computer glitch cannot explain the existence of two separate indictments to begin with – and the truth is, maybe nothing within the law can.

The "mistaken" indictment against Samuel Kellner as I posted it on April 28, 2011.

The "correct" indictment against Samuel Kellner as a PDF file:

Download Samuel Kellner Indictment