No Jail Time for Brooklyn Man Who Threw Bleach on a Rabbi

By Sharon Otterman (New York Times)
April 29, 2014

A Brooklyn man who threw bleach at an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual abuse in the borough’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community avoided jail time in a plea deal that gave him five years of probation, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said on Monday.

The man, Meilech Schnitzler, 38, pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Monday, admitting he threw the bleach at the advocate, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, in December 2012.

Rabbi Rosenberg said he was upset with the plea agreement.

“Six months in jail would have been enough to show this was serious,” he said. “Probation in our circles is a joke.”

Mr. Schnitzler had faced up to seven years in prison. The district attorney’s office said it agreed to the plea deal because it was Mr. Schnitzler’s first offense and Rabbi Rosenberg’s injuries were not permanent.

Rabbi Rosenberg has been a frequent target of ire among Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg because he runs a call-in show and blog on which he publicizes allegations of sexual abuse against ultra-Orthodox men, including those who have not been convicted of a crime.

Seven years ago, he was among the first to raise the alarm within the insular Satmar Hasidic community that regular incidents of child molestation were being swept under the rug by rabbinical leadership. Since that time, a small but vocal number of child sexual abuse victims have come forward and sought to prosecute their molesters.

Rabbi Rosenberg had publicly accused Mr. Schnitzler’s father of being a molester, and as he walked past Mr. Schnitzler’s Williamsburg fish market on Dec. 11, 2012, Mr. Schnitzler ran toward him with a cup of bleach and threw it in his face.

The episode happened one day after a prominent Satmar leader, Nechemya Weberman, had been convicted of sexually abusing a child, and tensions in the community were running high.

Mr. Schnitzler’s lawyer, Israel Fried, said his client had been cleaning the outside of his store with bleach that morning and had thrown the cup during an argument with the rabbi, not as a premeditated act. The rabbi said there had been no argument.

Mr. Fried said his client was happy about the agreement.