On Friday I reported on Rabbi Yisroel Belsky’s outsized role in advising Yosef Kolko. His advice got Kolko a prison sentence of 12 years and 9 months as I predicted. Belsky’s outrageous attacks on the family of Kolko’s victim forced them to move out of Lakewood.
One of my very astute regular commenters, Kevin in Chicago, eloquently captured some of the tragedy of this outcome in his response to my story on Friday.
Thank you, Yerachmiel Lopin, for your reporting, and may Hashem bless Judge Francis Hodgson for having his priorities straight — not letting the sentencing be again postponed out of consideration for the victim’s family, and sending a clear message that attempts to “game the system” will have negative consequences.
Nevertheless, I feel sorry for Yosef Kolko. By attempting to withdraw his guilty plea, he invited the damning testimony of his former attorney and ensured that he would receive the maximum sentence his plea agreement allowed. Of course he deserved punishment, but look at his face. A shlub, a shmendrik — pardon my ignorant Yiddish, but you get the idea. This is an adult who didn’t really grow up. Probably himself abused as a child, as YL once suggested, he appears to have been betrayed by his “father figure,” Rav Belsky, but in any case, “betrayed” by his own inability — usual among sexual abusers — to appreciate the gravity of his misconduct. That becomes understandable when the abuser has himself been abused — having been forced to think that what happened to him was “no big deal,” why is it surprising that he wants not only to believe it, but prove it by re-enacting his own loss of innocence by abusing a child like himself?
On one hand, one can rightly say that, having spurned the mercy shown him by the victim’s father by not remaining in therapy, and having attempted to reject the mercy offered by society in the form of a plea agreement that could have punished him with as little as 5 years in prison, he deserved what he got. On the other hand, 12-3/4 years is a very long time, too long if Kolko can be rehabilitated, too short if he cannot — but in that case the appropriate remedy should be civil commitment, not criminal imprisonment. But human justice is imperfect, and in human terms, justice was done. Rachmana litzlan — may the Merciful One have mercy on us — all of us. Shabbat shalom, all.