By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
May 5, 2014
UPDATE 5/6/14 11 a.m. – No plea deal was made this morning, though one was slated yesterday, before I posted. The case was adjourned (to Wednesday, May 22nd). Since I do not believe Brauner nixed such a good deal, I have to assume the DA made that decision, probably in response to the outcry raised here. Kudos to the growing strength of the anti-abuse movement and to the fact that the DA erred seriously but is not corrupt. I have left the rest of the article as written yesterday when a plea deal was anticipated. Its points are still valid. Hopefully, this last minute reversal signals a change of direction by the Office of the DA.
Repeat offender, sixty-year-old Jerry (Yechiel) Brauner of Boro Park, is set to get a no-jail, five-year probation plea-deal tomorrow (Tuesday, 5/6/14, 9 a.m.) in Brooklyn Criminal Court, Division 2 (120 Schermerhorn St. 11201) on charges of forcible touching (PL 135.52 00) and sexual abuse of a young man (130.55.00). Brauner allegedly committed these acts on December 20, 2013, and police arrested him on January 6, 2014. It is the first orthodox sex abuse prosecution handled from beginning to end during Kenneth Thompson’s term as Brooklyn District Attorney. Had the DA brought the case to trial, Brauner could have been sentenced to a year in prison. The victim objected but the Office of the DA decided to go ahead with the deal.
Twelve years ago in March 2002, Brauner pled guilty to Felony Sexual Abuse in the 1st Degree (PL 130.65) and Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse in the 3rd degree (PL 130.55). He evaded a prison sentence and got off with eleven years of probation. He was also classified as a level 3 on the sex offender registry. It was a sweetheart deal but still stiff for DA Joe Hynes who kowtowed to the orthodox community. Hynes probably got the go-ahead for the sex offender registration probation deal by orthodox leadership who considered Brauner a particularly egregious offender.
His probation terms limited him to going to a communal ritual bath (mikvah) once a year because he posed a danger to others, especially children. However, he regularly violated the terms of probation. This is yet another example of the limited value of probation with Haredi offenders. I hope the DA’s office did not fool itself into thinking this new probation agreement accomplished very much.
In 2006, the New York Post reported Brauner, now on the sex offender registry and on probation, lied about his conviction when he applied for a notary license. He then used the license to notarize a document designed to swindle a sick woman. According to the Post:
A devious cabal that included a pedophile rabbi stole a half-million-dollar home from a cancer-stricken woman, using a forged power of attorney to sell it and pocket the profits…Margaret Franklin’s Crown Heights home was stolen in August 2004 after Nathen Farkas, 31, forged a power of attorney, signing Franklin’s name, that effectively handed control of her assets to co-defendant Russell Pitt. The power of attorney was notarized by a third defendant, Jerry Brauner, 53, a rabbi who had been on probation since 2002 for the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy. Pitt then “sold” the property to the fourth defendant.
Teflon Brauner is a legend in Boro Park for his good fortune with prosecutors and his unstoppable groping in synagogues, catering halls, ritual baths, and everywhere else.
The Haredi Chaptzem Blog organized a petition against Congregation Shomer Shabbos in 2008, based on information in their 2007 article where they stated:
According to sources that spend substantial time in the Shomer Shabbos Shul in Boro-Park, Yechiel Brauner is still touching kids in places where nobody should. According to the sources, which are keeping a close eye on convicted child molester, Yechiel Brauner, who frequents the Shul, the molester’s routine works like this; he enters the Shul when it is very busy. He then walks around until he has found himself a comfortable spot at a crowded doorway or thorough-way. He then proceeds to stand there with his arm extended downward, all the while feeling up unsuspecting children as they pass by.
The petition got over 140 signatures, and most of those who signed, used their names, which is unusual in the Haredi world.
Two years later, in my 2010 post, The Shul for Scandal: Where the Molesters Prey, I reported that Brauner was still a regular at this busy shul, along with other molesters. The shul insisted that “everyone needs a place to daven (pray)” though they did exclude Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg because he is an anti-abuse activist.
Congregation Shomer Shabbos has such a bad reputation that the ultra-orthodox website, Yeshiva World News, took the unusual step of quoting Frum Follies about the bad judgment of mayoral candidate Lhota, who visited Shomer Shabbos in October 2013. That is the only time I have ever been quoted in any ultra-orthodox publication or website and one of the few times they tacitly alluded to sex abuse. They copied my words:
It may be unfair to Lhota to blame him for not knowing the reputation of the place. In all likelihood, Lhota did not know. But at some point politicians have to start demanding of their orthodox liaisons that they steer them clear of those culpable in the worst way.” (Frumfollies)
Yeshiva World News omitted what I said next:
…It is hard to deal with the ultra orthodox establishment without dealing with people who are culpable in ignoring or covering up sex abuse. Shomer Shabbos is a particularly bad place. I was informed of another alleged groping by Brauner, in public, just in the last week.
Even molester-friendly Satmar kicked him out of their community. In 2011, Congregation Shomer Shabbos finally banned Brauner from their premises. But according to local sources, they backtracked to let him say his eleven months of Kaddish at morning, afternoon and evening prayers after his father passed away. However, he was again thrown out after molesting another boy on premises, according to local sources.
It is unusual for an ultra orthodox Jew to bring criminal charges against another. But Brauner was tempting the odds with his perpetual groping. Because he is so notorious, the victim anticipated less community opposition.
While this no-prison plea deal is in line with the prevailing standards for the facts on the books, the DA had the discretion to demand a stronger plea bargain. In my opinion the DA wasted an opportunity to demand a stiffer deal or bring a case to trial. Such opportunities are few and far between. I wonder if Thompson’s liaison, Wolf Sender, his operative, Ezra Friedlander, and high level orthodox contacts such as Gary Schlesinger advised him of the facts on the ground, or whether, as is more likely, they let him fly blind. I fear the latter.
Last week I wrote, I Hope Thompson Is Merely Clueless about Witness Intimidation because otherwise, he is being complacent about a major obstacle to prosecuting orthodox sex crimes.
I am disappointed with Thompson, but perhaps I misunderstood his campaign promise to prosecute orthodox sex crimes like those in other groups. I assumed that Thompson was a serious man interested in the goal of justice which is protecting the community. But perhaps he is content to be a bureaucrat who is only interested in justifying himself on technical grounds. I assumed that prosecuting equally meant protecting children equally, but perhaps that is not his priority.
I have always seen Thompson as a proud, dignified man. But perhaps he is willing to be seen the fool by the orthodox Jewish public as the price of not provoking their ire. However, it will be worse than that. While the leadership will see him as their sucker or lap dog, the public will assume he is corrupt (though I do not believe that is true). You cannot fly blind and maintain your credibility.
I hope I am wrong but I am getting discouraged by his record to date.
UPDATE 5/6/14 7 a.m.
If you are offended by Brauner’s no-jail plea deal and want to let the Brooklyn DA know:
1. Share this post with your friends via FaceBook, Twitter, email and other social media and urge others to respond.
2. Write your reactions to this development as a comment below. I know the office of the DA pays attention to the contents of Frum Follies. I have an active DA readership which knows me as “Mr. Frum.”
By mail or in person: The District Attorney’s Action Center
350 Jay Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201 (“Walk-ins are welcome”}
By phone: 718-250-2340 (M-F, 9-5)
4. Please share your letters, phone exchanges, or walk-in exchanges on this blog page so there is a cumulative record. You can record and share your phone or face-to-face exchanges. NYS law allows recording and sharing as long as one party (you) consents.
Let’s get them to listen to the voices of victims/survivors and their supporters. We cannot trust the askanim to protect our children and fight for justice.
Please act! If you can, please act before the plea deal is finalized today (Tuesday 5/6/14) which can happen as early at 9:00 a.m. or as late as 4:30. I will update this page if I learn about a postponement.