By John Del Signore (Gothamist)
April 24, 2012
Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes has consistently refused to divulge the identities of Orthodox Jews accused and convicted of sex crimes, giving a blanket exemption to sex offenders who commit their crimes in tight-knit Orthodox communities. Now his office has been compelled to formally explain why it won't name the accused and convicted. In response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by The Forward, Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy argues that releasing the names of suspects would allow others in the community to identify their victims. She writes:
The circumstances here are unique. Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants' names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims.
But the Forward points out that last year Hynes announced the arrests of 85 Orthodox Jews on sex crimes charges since 2008, refusing to release the suspects' names, citing the need to protect the victims. "Yet that same week, Hynes issued a press release publicizing the name of a non-Jewish man convicted of raping his girlfriend's daughter," The Forward's Paul Berger notes. "Hynes released the man's name, the neighborhood where he lived and the victim's age, enough information for any neighbor to identify the girl."
The DA's policy has been criticized by an NYCLU lawyer and Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University, who tells the Forward, "I think they are complicit in what enables these kinds of perpetrators in these kinds of communities if they are going... to refuse to publish names of any child sex predators. When names of perpetrators are made public, their other victims are empowered to come forward and the whole community is given the power to identify and stop them and other predators. What the DA's office is doing, unfortunately, is playing right into the hands of the abusers."
Assemblyman Dov Hikind believes Hynes's policy is motivated by political pressure from powerful rabbis. "Why he will not release information that other district attorneys release readily to the public because it is in the public interest, I just don't get that," Hikind told CBS 2 at the end of last month. "I do believe that Charles Hynes is playing politics with children's lives."
And parents of some of the victims say Hynes is letting the suspects off easy. The fathers of two boys who were sexually abused by Rabbi Joel Kolko were willing to testify against the rabbi in open court, but were outraged to learn that Kolko was being allowed to plead to lesser charges of endangering the welfare of a child. He did no prison time and got three years probation. "He basically walked free and that's what they wanted," the victims' fathers told CBS 2. "It was just shocking... shocking. It was a shock. We are waiting for justice and it's not being done."