As I predicted yesterday, Sam Kellner did not get his day in court. At the request of the Office of the Kings County District Attorney (KCDA), Samuel Kellner’s trial, which was scheduled to start today, was adjourned till Monday, July 29, 2013.
Joe Alexis did the lifting in the courtroom and Nicholas (Nick) Batsidis seem a bit off-kilter when he entered. Alexis said the KCDA needs time to investigate Zalmen Ashkenazi.
Zalmen, according to reports by Hella Winston, worked on behalf of Lebovits to manipulate and control a victim of Baruch Leibovits who recanted his police and grand jury testimony against Lebovits and then went on to accuse Kellner of paying him to falsely testify against Leibovits. At this point the witness has changed stories so often he should be mounted on a lazy Susan. He was molested and then he wasn’t. He was promised money by Kellner and then he wasn’t. He was paid money and then he was stiffed. He recanted willingly and then he says he was threatened with arrest. He came forward to accuse Kellner freely, and now he says he was controlled by Zalmen Ashkenazi whose permission he needed to come back from Israel to New York. The DA now has records confirming that Zalmen Ashkenazi did indeed pay for the witness’ travel. I feel for this poor guy. The DA has solid evidence he was viciously molested by Lebovits, claims that are verifiable by prior outcries. Only after these outcries was this witness connected to Sam Kellner who assisted him in going to Detective Steve Litwin and pressing charges. He was not the witness that got Lebovits convicted. This witness “changed his mind” about testifying after he was intimidated and manipulated. At this point he is completely useless as a witness against either Lebovits or Kellner.
The prosecution’s other main witness is Meyer Lebovits, the son of Baruch (Mordechai) Lebovits. This case has no legs.
If the KCDA had integrity it would have dropped the charges a long time ago and apologized to Kellner.
The KCDA’s claim that it needs time to investigate Ashkenazi is just an attempt to provide cover for the inevitable- the dismissal of charges. At some point, probably after the election, they will probably try to make it look like the charges were dropped on a technicality.
The KCDA Director of Public Information, Jerry Schmetterer, was monitoring the proceedings. Reporters in the courtroom included Mosi Secret from the New York Times, Hella Winston, the premier reporter on the Kellner case, Josh Saul and Oren Yaniv. Alexis and Batsidis could have saved themselves, and everyone else, a lot of trouble, if they had paid attention to her reporting instead of believing Michael Vecchione and Arthur (Artie) Aidala.
I am guessing that Jerry was there both to help his lunch partner, Mike Vecchione, assess how the script was playing to the world and thinking ahead about how to spin this story. If reporters are diligent he will have to explain explain why the DA is suddenly looking into Zalmen Ashkenazi now when his role was known to many parties in the KCDA for a long time. He will also be asked why no one has ever prosecuted Zalman’s brother, Berrel, who was revealed to have molested 3 named boys by ADA Miss Gregory during the first Lebovits trial. Some reporter might ask Jerry if it has anything to do with Zalman and Berrel having a brother who is a son-in-law of the Satmar Rebbe. It will be interesting to see which reporters ask the hard questions. I know Hella will.
It is also possible Schmetterer was there on orders of the DA to assist in assessing whether to get rid of Vecchione. There is no precedent for Hynes firing any of his top-level loyalists. But there is also no precedent for Hynes letting anything get in the way of winning another term.
Schmetterer and Vecchione are regular lunch buddies. If Hynes loses, both Schmetterer and Vecchione will be looking for new jobs. Schmetterer’s prospects are worse. This is a bear market for journalists and media PR types. If Schmetterer concludes that firing Vecchione would improve Hynes’ reelection prospects, he might just throw him under the bus.
I may be tied up on other business for a week on other matters but you can be sure I will be back to report on future developments as the Kellner case morphs into the Ashkenazi case.
P.S. I just noticed this pointed observation by Adam Martin in New York Magazine.
The lingering problem here is that Hynes has faced ongoing criticism that he doesn’t prosecute sex crimes in the Orthodox community aggressively enough. In addition, Hynes’s office has been accused recently of handling witnesses in a less-than-professional manner. This case involves both of those issues, so it’s going to be one to watch, especially with Hynes up for reelection this year.