In Hasidic circles, Baruch Lebovits is believed to be a serial, child, sexual predator. Yet people marvel at his ability to elude justice. After being convicted in a spectacularly revealing trial he managed to get the verdict overturned because of serious mistakes by the Office of the Kings County District Attorney. Some in the Hasidic community suspect the mistakes were intentional and made in deference to Hynes’ buddy Arthur Aidala who was Lebovits’ attorney.
Now there is a new wrinkle as Lebovits faces a retrial. Lebovits has entered into an agreement with the victim/accuser in the first trial through attorney Michael Roth. While not technically conceding guilt, the agreement compensates the victim in return for dropping any threat of a civil trial. On paper it is kosher. The agreement clearly leaves the victim free to testify against Lebovits. In theory this is dandy. The jury gets told that there was a settlement. Even though the agreement does not concede guilt, this sort of thing makes the jury think there is definitely smoke, in fact somewhere over a half a million dollars of smoke. Moreover, the jury gets told that the settlement has been paid in full.
However, this is not really a free lunch. The money is not in the hands of the accuser; it is in escrow with a rabbi in Israel conditional on the rabbi concluding the accuser has cleaned up his chronic substance abuse problem. I have heard the name Shamai Hirsch in connection with the escrow arrangement. Given the victim’s history of relapse, the rabbi could easily decide never to pay off the victim. In any event, in fancy legal form, Lebovits is attempting to bribe the victim to control his testimony.
I have very little faith that Joe Hynes will deal well with this problem. Hell, he had Abraham Rubin who was tape recorded offering a half million dollar bribe and he let him plead guilty to reduced charges. He recommended 6 months as a sentence but Hynes has a talent for framing those requests so judges give no time. So Hynes will leave office without having ever secured a single day’s jail time for an ultra orthodox Jew who obstructed justice.
At this point, I urge all involved in this case to get to the bottom of these financial arrangements and postpone any trial until they can remove this obstacle to honest testimony. Moreover, the DA has also admitted that Zalman Ashkenazi is suspected of intimidating and bribing another witness against Lebovits. That issue needs to be resolved and steps need to be taken to be sure that is not happening to this witness against Lebovits. If the DA proceeds to trial against Lebovits without resolving these issues many will rightly suspect yet another failure of justice engineered on behalf of Lebovits and his attorney, Arthur Aidala.