By Steve Lieberman (The Journal News)
August 13, 2014
A prominent Monsey rabbi who runs a boys school pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges he sexually assaulted a 7-year-old boy repeatedly in his yeshiva office.
Gavriel Bodenheimer, 71, principal of Yeshiva Bais Mikroh, stood shackled at the waist during his arraignment on three felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual act and one of first-degree sex abuse.
Judge William Nelson set Bodenheimer's bail at $25,000. The rabbi's lawyer, Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg, said he would be able to post bail.
"We are going to fight the allegations because they are not true," Wolikow-Loewenberg said after the court session.
Ramapo police arrested Bodenheimer on Monday based on a sealed grand jury indictment. He was held overnight at the Rockland County jail in New City pending his court appearance, when the indictment was unsealed. He was released later Tuesday, his lawyer said.
Bodenheimer, who has 14 children and 100 grandchildren, has led the Bais Mikroh on Viola Road for decades. Allegations of corporal punishment have dogged the school, with former students making claims on blogs and news sites.
The boy and his mother filed a sex-abuse complaint against Bodenheimer in December, Detective Lt. Mark Emma said. The investigation was conducted by police and the Rockland District Attorney's Office Special Victim's Unit.
Bodenheimer, while serving as principal, subjected the student to sexual abuse starting when the boy was 7, in 2009, District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said in a statement. The sexual assaults took place in the rabbi's school office between Aug. 1, 2009, and July 31, 2010, Zugibe said.
Wolikow-Loewenberg tried to persuade the judge to release Bodenheimer without bail, saying he had been a lifelong fixture in the community.
"He's not a flight risk. There is no reason to suspect he will not return to court. His roots are here," she said.
Prosecutor John McGowan asked for $100,000 bail.
Nelson issued an order directing the rabbi to not contact the victim.
Bodenheimer, who lives on Dunhill Lane, has no arrest record. He is due back in court Aug. 26.
The charges against him carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Kenneth Gribetz, a former county district attorney, said he and Wolikow-Loewenberg will take the case to trial and that the rabbi never had an opportunity to testify before the grand jury.
He said the rabbi's "reputation is impeccable, without exaggeration."
"This is a total fabrication," Gribetz said. "Nothing ever happened with this boy. He's a troubled young man."
Bodenheimer has been active recently in the push to change the state education aid formula to bring more aid to the East Ramapo school district, whose board is controlled by Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish residents, and to the private schools that many of its young residents attend.