By Pablo Guzmán (CBS 2 News)
February 25, 2011
A father was convinced his 16-year-old daughter was having a relationship with a 17-year-old boy, so the father set up a hidden camera in the house. What he recorded shocked him — what he saw the daughter doing to please the young man.
They are Orthodox Jews, in Brooklyn. The father had already taken the daughter to seek counseling with Rabbi Nechemya Weberman in years past. Just as he had taken her older sister. It is a common practice in the community for a respected person to be a counselor, or serve as a therapist. Weberman is affiliated, police said, with Brooklyn's United Talmudic Community, a yeshiva.
Now, the father went to the Brooklyn DA's office with the tape, and Rabbi Weberman. The Brooklyn DA's office has set up special channels of communication to bridge cultural gaps that might be beneficial to both sides. However, the more that investigators talked to the parties involved — especially when they spoke with them separately — the more that there were questions which indicated something was not right. Around Feb. 16, the girl told a counselor at school that the rabbi has been raping her for years. The counselor reported it, and when the investigators talked to her again, she claimed there were at least 16 incidents at 263 Classon Avenue, in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, which serves as Weberman's home and office. It is where the counseling sessions took place. The girl told investigators it began in 2007, when she was 12; and continued through 2010.
Detectives assembled sufficient preliminary evidence to start a case; and arrested Weberman on Wednesday. He was brought to Brooklyn Criminal Court that night, and told he was being charged with rape, endangering the welfare of a child, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct against a child, and engaging in a criminal sexual act.
The Orthodox Jewish community that has gone to Weberman as a therapist and counselor, especially for young people, are in shock. Reeling. The debate has even gone to blogs on the Internet. But Weberman's lawyer, George Farkas, told me, people should not jump to conclusions, warning that this all began within what he called "a dysfunctional family," referring to the father setting up the hidden camera and the possibility that the daughter is striking out in anger against her father, who is trying to shut down her relationship with her boyfriend and slam Weberman in the process.
"The charges (against Weberman) are horrendous. They are disgusting. And they're despicable. Not just — it's absolutely awful. But what I will tell you is that this man will die before he's branded a child molestor," Farkas said.
Sources in the case said Weberman is not a licensed therapist. But on Friday NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly added one thing more: "The rabbi ... is NOT a rabbi! He's a 52-year-old male arrested for molestation of a young woman who is still a minor."
After hearing this, I called Farkas, Weberman's attorney. He took a deep breath.
"Have I asked to see his rabbinical diploma? No. Does he have a congregation? No. Does the Gentile world always understand when my world uses the term 'rabbi'? No. I think you do, Pablo," Farkas said. "We know each other. But many do not. Now: with that said, have people taken their children for years to see him as a counselor? Yes. Is he viewed as a therapist? Yes. Is he 'respected'? Yes."
Another respected member of the Brooklyn Orthodox community told me, "This is all very difficult for us. There is unfortunately a 'tradition', if you will, of the pedophile continuing to function, when he is in such a respected position. And the victim being ostracized. We have worked hard to change this. But it has been a long, uphill battle. Now, I do not know this man. But I will say this: since word began circulating, people are talking. Others are coming forward. I believe there may be as many as five other people who are preparing to report their own encounters with this man. We have to see what happens in the justice system."
Some who are involved in the case have told me that is exactly what's happening. More evidence is being presented, right now, to a grand jury.
Rabbi Weberman is due back in court March 9. Detectives are gathering information for a possible indictment.