Day 3 (Mon., 5/13/13) of the trial of Rabbi Yosef Kolko did not go as expected when it adjourned on Thursday. While the session should have started at nine in the morning, everyone was kept in the corridors including the defendant, and a representative of the victim’s family. There were a series of consultations in the judges chambers all morning long with people going in and out including the prosecutor, Laura Pierro, defense counsel, Michael Bachner, the defendant and a member of the family of the victim.
Also in the hallway were about seven supporters of Kolko who had never been to court before. About five were young yeshivish Lakewood guys, but with pretty expensive clothing, and at least one Hasid. For most of the morning they were in a pretty good mood.
A little after one in the afternoon the courtroom was finally opened. The session opened with prosecutor Pierro announcing that two additional victims of Kolko came forward on Friday afternoon and were willing to testify. As a result, Kolko agreed to plead guilty to all seven charges (which include oral sex, attempted anal penetration and other offenses). Defense counsel Bachner stipulated that this was on the condition that no additional charges would be brought against Kolko and this condition was accepted by all parties. Kolko was then brought to the stand and put through the formalities of explicitly pleading guilty to each charge. The Judge then imposed sentences of 5-15 years for the various charges and a fine to the State of New Jersey of $650,000. Final sentencing terms will depend on the evaluation of the defendant. Bachner’s last request was that Kolko be allowed to be allowed to stay out on bail until after the holiday of Shavuoth. Judge Hodgson rejected the request because he was a “flight risk.” Kolko was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
The courtroom observer who shared this with me observed that the clique of Kolko supporters were in a good mood until the moment that the judge rejected the possibility of Kolko staying out on bail until after Shavuoth. This makes him suspect that there was a plan to help him flee which is why they will still in a good mood throughout the guilty plea and sentencing.
That’s my report for the moment. Over the next few days I hope to be able to report some more of the facts of the case and to share my observations and insights.
If You Want Background on This Case
Hella Winston has written an in-depth account of how Lakewood’s rabbinical leaders dealt with this case and how the dominant leadership faction tried to cover it up.
Survivors for Justice has a page on the Yosef Kolko case (as distinct from the case of his uncle, Yehuda (Joel) Kolko). The page has links to key documents generated by Kolko’s supporters (including Yisroel Belsky) and to some other news accounts.
Other bloggers addressing this case include Harry Maryles on his blog, Emes Ve-Emunah (The Moral Authority of Lakewood), and Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn on his blog, Daas Torah (Why the Lakewood Establishment is Scared).