Letter to the Editor - June 16, 2010, The Jewish Star

Lessons from witness tampering

To the Editor:

Your cover story about the indictment of a 31-year-old man in Lakewood for witness tampering ("Witness tampering charged in abuse case"; July 9, 2010) was a great service to the community for at least three reasons.

First, many still feel the "community" can handle child abuse cases better than the authorities. Yet, at the recent Agudah convention I attended, we were instructed to contact the police if there is a suspicion of child abuse.

Second, some people may think they have the right to free speech to espouse and encourage that matters like child abuse should be handled through beis din, but they could find themselves in violation of the secular law. In a New Jersey case called State v. Crescenzi, an appeals court rejected such a constitutional challenge of free speech noting "when the public interest in discovering the truth in official proceedings is balanced against a party's right to speak, that party's right is minuscule." A "beis din only" defense to prevent chillul HaShem will not go too far before any jury hearing a child abuse, witness tampering trial.

Finally, it astounds me that people willingly and openly talk to the police without the advice of counsel. The government's proof in the case would have been substantially harder without the young man talking so freely. Unless you call the police, they do not come to your house just to shmooze or have coffee. Be smart; call a lawyer before you talk too much.

Alexander (Abba Shmuel) Novak, Esq.