Was Yosef Kolko Pressured to Plead Guilty by the Lakewood BMG Establishment?

According to Katie Zezima of the Associated Press (AP) Wire Service (as published on Huffington Post and many other places)

When Judge Francis R. Hodgson asked [Rabbi Yosef] Kolko if he had received any promises or was threatened or coerced in exchange for his plea, Kolko answered softly that there were things that were “not part of the court system.”

This has led to speculation in Lakewood orthodox Jewish Circles about whether he was alluding to pressure by the establishment of Beth Medrash Govohah (BMG). This has been part of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky’s claims about why he believes Koko is really innocent! This speculation emerged as a post in the Lakewood Times blog.

I submitted my thoughts as a comment on that post which I am duplicating here (with some slight edits).

I do not believe that the witnesses came forward at the behest of the Lakewood establishment. I am sure that one of the witnesses came forward through a totally different path and this witness would not have acted to oblige the Lakewood BMG leadership. While the timing may seem surprising, it corresponds well to a pattern experienced by many of us who do abuse victim advocacy. During trials, victims of the defendant start coming out of the woodwork. I will hear from more new victims of an abuser during a trial than I may have heard in the 1-3 years since the publicity about the arrest. These trials are very triggering for victims; issues that have lain dormant for years or decades suddenly get activated and motivate them to reach out to others.

I assume the prosecutor carefully vetted the extra witnesses before presenting and would have shared any exculpatory evidence with the defense to avoid having a conviction thrown out for Brady or Rossario violations. Prosecutors are also very cautious about last-minute witnesses because an additional witness can cause more harm than good if they are discredited on the stand.

I do not accept the idea that Kolko can blame his lawyer. Virtually every defense lawyer protects himself from horrible damage to their reputation by making sure the accused gets written communication about the likely risks of a trial and the arguments for accepting a plea bargain beforehand. In this case, the defense lawyer knew the prosecution had a strong case even before the extra witnesses came forward and I am pretty certain he discussed it with Kolko.

It was Kolko alone who chose (foolishly) to exercise his constitutional right to go to a trial. He may also have been egged on by Mickey Rottenberg and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky.

Molesters are so used to successfully manipulating their victims that they cannot believe their victims have changed and are no longer under their control. I suspect that once Kolko saw his victim being so competent on the witness stand he finally realized the jig was up and it would only get worse as the trial proceeded.

I too am mystified by Kolko’s comments about being pressured by folks outside the judicial system. It may have been his family. It may even have been Rabbi Belsky who found it easier to insist on Kolko’s innocence with one witness than 3. If it was the BMG hanhalah (administration, i.e., Rabbi Malkiel and CEO Aaron Kotler) that urged him to plead guilty it was not because they cared one way or the other about his guilt or his punishment. It was because the testimony of the rabbonim about confessions and beit din would have exposed the community to the truth that there are deep divisions within Lakewood about how to handle these cases and the BMG CEO and leadership were the true forces behind the cover-up and the expulsion of the victim’s family from Lakewood.

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One thought on “Was Yosef Kolko Pressured to Plead Guilty by the Lakewood BMG Establishment?

  1. Yosef KOLKO, misken norah, sacrificed, SA’IR L’AZAZEL. Rachmanut alahv.
    And so altruistic to agree to be such. He deserves praise and not condemnation.
    Happy Purim

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