By Oren Yaniv (NY Daily News)
July 9, 2014
A Brooklyn cantor was hauled to prison Wednesday for abusing a teenage boy, capping a controversial and convoluted case a full decade in the making.
An unapologetic Baruch Lebovits, 62, got shackled, waved goodbye to his son and was led away to serve a two-year stint in prison — which translates to only a handful of months after credit for good behavior and time served.
The Hasidic defendant, who copped in May to felony sex abuse against a 16-year-old in 2004, had already spent 13 months in prison after he was found guilty in a 2010 trial and sent to a maximum of 32 years behind bars — before the conviction was overturned on appeal.
In between then and now, a man accused of illegally meddling in the case was indicted and much later cleared, the competing prosecutions became fodder during last year’s district attorney election and numerous accusations of payoffs and witness intimidation have been lobbed.
But one thing never happened.
“He still wouldn’t apologize to me in person,” Lebovits’ victim, now 26, said during brief remarks in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Wearing a blue T-shirt and cargo pants, the man, who received a civil settlement from Lebovits’ family that included an undisclosed amount of cash,was accompanied by a therapy dog.
His father spoke next, quoting King David, Martin Luther King and Maimonides.
“We all have been excommunicated for the past six years from some of the Hasidic communities,” he said of his family, describing the experience of many Jewish sex victims who seek justice in secular courts.
He praised his son for his “bravery and self-sacrifice, for going forward with the case despite the harassment you endured from the community.”
Justice Mark Dwyer acknowledged the case was controversial, but added he won’t delve into Rabbinical issues.
“We’re all Americans and this American court is going to treat everybody the same,” he said.
The judge had previously explained that his promised two-year sentence is in-line with similar punishments for the admitted offenses in the state.
Anti-abuse activists have slammed the outcome as too lenient, charging that Lebovits was a serial molester who had many more victims. The high-powered defense team have argued that allegations of indecency were trumped-up to meet the legal definition of felonies.
When it was his turn to speak, Lebovits just stood up and thanked the judge.
The victim’s dad addressed the abuser just minutes earlier.
“As you’re going away for a while, I would like to ask you to reflect during that time on how you destroyed an innocent life,” he said. “You still never said three simple words to (my son): ‘I am sorry.’”