By Steve Lieberman (Journal News)
July 30, 2014
A New Square educator accused of sexually abusing a young boy over five years has rejected the prosecution's offer of state prison time in exchange for a guilty plea.
Moshe Taubenfeld plans to challenge before a jury the felony charge that he sexually abused a New Square boy from age 8 in 2001 until he turned 13 in 2006. Taubenfeld, 55, the father of 20 children, pleaded not guilty July 8 to the charge of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child.
"Our client has indicated he did nothing of that nature," defense attorney Gerard Damiani said Wednesday.
Damiani said Taubenfeld denied the accusations when the young man asked him about the alleged abuse during a telephone conversation monitored by Ramapo police and the Rockland District Attorney's Office.
"Apparently there was an effort to get a statement from him some time ago which proved fruitless," Damiani said. "It resulted in denials."
Jury selection is set for Sept. 15 before Rockland County Judge William Nelson. Damiani said the case might not start that day because of motions and pretrial hearings to suppress prosecution evidence.
Prosecutor Jennifer Parietti, who heads the special victims unit, said Taubenfeld was offered an unspecified state prison sentence in exchange for his plea. The felony carries a minimum of two years in prison to a maximum of 3 1/2 to 7 years.
Ramapo police arrested Taubenfeld in January. Police said he also goes by Mendel Zarkowsky, the name under which he votes. His first wife, Goldie, and a 3-month-old son were among those killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem on Aug. 19, 2003.
Taubenfeld's accuser, named Laiby, told The Journal News in January that he first sought consolation from Taubenfeld after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He described Taubenfeld as family friend.
Under the law, a sexual abuse case can be prosecuted five years after the accuser turns 18. Laiby said he and his family reported the alleged abuse about six years ago to New Square's Grand Rabbi David Twersky and other community leaders, who discouraged him and others from going to police and threatened retaliation if they did.
Damiani called the young's man's account bizarre and will challenge it if the case goes to trial.
Laiby's alleged problems with the New Square hierarchy were similar to those of other abuse victims, including a young man, Yossi, who reported Taubenfeld's brother Herschel, to Ramapo police in 2011. Herschel Taubenfeld pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching after being charged with 30 counts — forcible touching, endangering a child's welfare and sexual assault. He has been classified as a low-risk sex offender.
Yossi's case became the first sexual abuse case prosecuted in the New Square Hasidic Jewish community. Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the usually cloistered ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is cooperating more on such cases.