By Stephanie Clifford (New York Times)
July 9, 2014
A cantor whose sexual abuse case split the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in prison, as expected under a plea deal struck in May.
The cantor, Baruch Lebovits, is expected to serve only a few months of that sentence, because he received credit of 13 months for time served on a previous conviction on the same charge. An appeals court overturned that conviction in 2012.
The case was a prominent one for Charles J. Hynes, the former Brooklyn district attorney, who had vowed to fight sexual abuse among the ultra-Orthodox. Mr. Lebovits was convicted in 2010 of molesting a teenage boy on eight occasions. He was then sentenced to 102/3 to 32 years in prison.
But after the conviction was overturned, on an evidentiary issue, Mr. Lebovits was released.
The office of Brooklyn’s new district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, had seemed to signal that it would pursue a new trial against Mr. Lebovits. But in May, at what was to be a routine hearing, prosecutors and defense lawyers discussed plea negotiations.
The judge, Justice Mark Dwyer of State Supreme Court, said then that he had researched normal prison terms for the type of felony Mr. Lebovits was accused of, and that two years was typical. The lawyers involved and the judge then agreed to two years.
A teenager whom Mr. Lebovits was separately suspected of molesting was the son of Samuel Kellner, also an ultra-Orthodox Jew, who had helped investigators build a case against Mr. Lebovits. Mr. Kellner was further pulled into the Lebovits case when prosecutors filed charges against him, saying he had bribed a third young man to testify against Mr. Lebovits. Mr. Thompson’s office had the charges against Mr. Kellner dismissed in March.
Mr. Kellner, who had long insisted that supporters of Mr. Lebovits had fabricated the case against him and that Mr. Lebovits had abused others in addition to his son, said on Wednesday that he was saddened by the sentence.
“It was six years of hell, and I ended up not making a difference,” Mr. Kellner said.
He expressed concern about the lack of supervision after Mr. Lebovits leaves prison, and the message that a light sentence might send to children who are sexually molested.
“What kind of explanation, what is the thing that we’re going to tell them?” Mr. Kellner said. “Go to the police and, what — how do we safeguard these kids?”
The victim and the victim’s father spoke at the hearing, with the victim saying that Mr. Lebovits had not apologized to him.