Nechemya Weberman allegedly sexually assaulted a twelve-year-old girl and continued doing it till she was fifteen. Meir Dascalowitz allegedly raped a boy in a mikvah (ritual bath) over a dozen times. The perpetrators and the victims are all Hasidim from Williamsburg. To the shame of the community’s members, most of them either stay on the sidelines or actively support the alleged perpetrators. The victims and their families are subjected to all sorts of pressures to drop their cases. Fortunately, the criminal justice system is prosecuting the perpetrators.
Both defendants are out on bail. They have no incentive to rush to trial since they both face sentences of decades in prison. Instead, they publicly protest their innocence and hope that the chatter will die down while their well-paid lawyers try to postpone their trials.
In New York State the wheels of justice grind slowly, very slowly. They always did and recent cuts in court personnel have slowed them down some more. It is now ten months since Dascalowitz was arraigned on ten Felony D charges of criminal sexual activity-2nd degree with a victim under fifteen years of age (PL 130.45 01). There are many additional felony and misdemeanor charges. Approximately once a month he goes in for a court appearance. For almost a half a year his lawyer, Israel Fried has successfully gotten postponements by dickering with the District Attorney about how to determine if Dascalowitz is mentally competent to assist in his defense. As of a month ago, Dascalowitz had still not gone in for an inpatient evaluation of his mental status.
Weberman was arrested on February 23, 2010, on a small set of charges, which only included one D Felony. On March 8 a Grand Jury indictment was entered into the court record. He was charged with 150 felonies all involving sexual crimes with a child including one B felony in the first degree, 145 D felonies and 4 E felonies. Among other things he was specifically charged with the B felony in the 1st degree, of “a course of sexual conduct” with his victim when she was twelve where the act had to have been either oral, anal or vaginal sex or penetrating her vaginally or anally with a foreign object which caused injury. Baruch Lebovits was only convicted of eight D felonies and was sentenced to 10-32 years. In theory, Weberman’s sentence, if he is convicted on all charges, could top Bernie Madoff’s by several hundred years.
Trials and sentencing sessions are dramatic. The court appearances preceding a trial are humdrum and quick. A morning in court can include many defendants and very little time for each. The usual outcome is some very small development followed by the scheduling of the next date and the continuation of bail and the order of protection.
So, why bother to attend? Ordinarily the defendant does not bring out his supporters until the trial. In spite of all their bravado they actually prefer as little attention as possible. Sometimes their supporters even spread rumors that the charges will be dropped and it is just a matter of court procedures. Balderdash! But that is what they claim. It is not in their interest to have observers from the other side in the courtroom. They prefer flying under the radar.
At the same the time the victims and their families and close supporters are bombarded with the message that your efforts are futile and everyone in the community is against you. Their kids are expelled from schools; the parents are thrown out of synagogues. The harassment includes nasty phone calls and letters, jeers on the street, and scurrilous rumors about the parents and the kids including charges of promiscuity, other irreligious behavior, theft, and child abuse. They suffer social death in a world where community is everything.
The point of going to court for the sporadic appearances is to show support for the victims, to let the miscreants know that we are fighting them, and to publicize the case during the doldrums between arrests and convictions. This means that observers should also take care to record the doings and publicize them through blog accounts and press conferences.
If you attend during this double-header make sure one case doesn’t get all the attention and the other gets neglected. When you enter the courthouse write down the room locations and floors for both events. If enough people are attending one courtroom I suggest going to the other courtroom. There is a well-organized effort for the Dascalowitz appearance but nothing as yet organized for the Weberman appearance. So consider favoring the Weberman case. When the defendant appearance is over in your courtroom of choice, hop over to the other courtroom.
JUST THE FACTS:
Date: Friday March 25th, 2010
Time: 9:00 A. M (but come 20 minutes earlier for security checks, and one hour before to be sure of a seat). Be ready to wait, and wait, and wait till the case is called up. But don’t snooze. Some supporters who took the effort to attend the previous Weberman appearance missed it because it was over before 10 a.m.
Place: Kings County Supreme Court, 320 Jay Street (corner Johnson St), Brooklyn, NY 11201 (parking at Marriott)
Court Rooms: Check and write down the room listings in the court lobby for:
- Nechemya Weberman (before Judge Patricia DiMango)
- Meir Dascalowitz (Before Judge Miriam Cyrulnik)
Publicize: Share the details of the court event by communicating with bloggers and writing comments and guest posts for blogs. Try to take careful notes. You will have to be very alert once the case gets called up. Things happen quickly, the acoustics are lousy, and the details matter. I will be on my computer monitoring all my comments and messages. I will simultaneously be on FaceBook, chatting with any of you who reach out to me. Please” friend” me on FB me before the morning of the 25th. You can use cell phones and cameras in the lobby and outside the courthouse. Hat Tips for the first usable photos of either defendant. Double hat tips for photos of either defendant parking illegally. Tripple Hat Tips for photos of illegal use of court house placards or pictures of defendants trying to cover their face when being photographed.