How We Plan to Stop a No-Jail-Time Plea Bargain for Baruch Lebovits

Rabbi Baruch Lebovits being mesader kedushin in Florida

Rabbi & Cantor Baruch Lebovits
starting a wedding ceremony in FL

The word is all over the Brooklyn DA, the Hasidic community, legal circles, and journalistic circles: the DA will try to let Baruch (Mordechai) Lebovits plead guilty in return for no more jail time. He served a little over one year of a 10-32-year sentence for sexually abusing a minor. Then he got sprung on a technicality which voided his conviction but not his indictment. For close to two years the DA has diddled instead of retrying him. There seems to be collusion between Hynes, Michael Vecchione, Arthur Aidala (a close friend of Hynes and Lebovits’ attorney), and Lebovits’ appellate attorneys Nathan and Alan Dershowitz.

It is even suspected by some that the DA’s office left openings in the trial for an appeal. It is otherwise hard to explain why they turned over tons of paper but “missed” the three pages of police notes on Berrel Ashkenazi’s attempt to bribe the victim out of testifying. It was these three missing pages that led a four-judge panel to overturn the original trial verdict. Some people claim it was just a copy machine or faxing error. I know these things happen, but to paraphrase Bogart in Casablanca, ‘Of all the missing notes, in all the cases, it fails to show up in the Lebovits case.’

Mike "amnesia" Vecchione

Mike “amnesia” Vecchione

Speaking of stuff that seems to have gone missing, there is a recording of Baruch Lebovits. As part of the initial investigation, NYPD Detective Steve Litwin conducted a police supervised recording of a conversation between the alleged victim and Lebovits. In this tape, Lebovits all but admitted sexually molesting the young man. Inexplicably, while a transcript of the tape was turned over to the defense, the recording itself seems never to have been turned over. Oddly, the defense never objected at the trial or in appeals, probably because they preferred not having the tape come to light. At this point is not even clear if the tape was destroyed, “lost,” or withheld for some other reason. But I know one thing, no one in the Brooklyn DA has ever heard of another such piece of evidence being lost in another case.

Samuel Kellner appeared in court today. He should have had his case dismissed. He was accused of trying to extort Baruch Lebovits demanding money and offering to bring young men who would testify he was a molester unless he paid up. The case was concocted by Lebovits and uncritically accepted by false-convictions Rackets Division Chief Michael Vecchione. The veteran ADAs with the case from the beginning were kicked out of the Rackets Division because they intended to dismiss the case. They said as much to Kellner’s attorneys. Instead, Vecchione sent in John Holmes, an ADA clueless about the case, who told the judge the only thing he knew was that he was instructed to request an adjournment. The judge went ahead and adjourned the case till Monday, January 6th. So much for DA Hynes’ promise on the Zev Brenner show to prosecute the case this year.

Today, Samuel Kellner’s attorneys made a motion for the “missing” tape. The judge ordered it delivered in court on November 25th. At that point we will either finally find out the truth about where it went or what is on it. But that may be too late because Lebovits’ next appearance is this coming Tuesday, November 19. At that hearing the DA is expected to announce a plea bargain of no more jail time for Lebovits.

I and a number of other activists are determined to avert that outcome, a grievous offense to Lebovits’ victims including, allegedly, Motty Borger, Meir Dascalowitz (who went on to rape other boys), the three young men who gave grand jury testimony leading to his indictments, and many, many others.

The strategy is to bypass the DA and go to the judge, the Honorable Mark Dwyer. There does not seem to be any point in appealing to the DA’s conscience. To quote Gertrude Stein, “There is no there, there!” A plea bargain has to be approved by a judge. A group of us are drafting a letter which will be addressed to the judge, outlining the importance of this case and the irregularities in how it has been prosecuted. The letter will have a ton of signatures. The letter will merely ask the judge to insist on answers to the questions about the irregularities before approving any plea bargain below the going rate for these things. Judge Dwyer has a reputation as one of the smartest judges in the city. He will not be intimidated by Alan and Nathan Dershowitz, publicity hound (and chair of the Friends of Joe Hynes), Arthur Aidala, or any other high priced legal talent procured by Lebovits. I believe he can be trusted to protect the interests of justice.

If you have worked with me or other anti-abuse activists, expect requests for help and signatures, sometime today or tomorrow.

Mark Tuesday, November 19th, 9:30 a.m. in your calendar so you can show up to support justice for Lebovits’s victims.

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25 thoughts on “How We Plan to Stop a No-Jail-Time Plea Bargain for Baruch Lebovits

  1. I heard the other side is also drafting a letter to the judge supporting the no-jail plea bargain. They also place a load of signature, but they are doing it by making up fictitious but real sounding names, knowing no one has the time to check the names of hundreds of signatures on a letter.

  2. Please include in the letter…

    That when not in jail he spends his time in local MIKVAOS!!!

    It is of extreme importance to public welfare that this so-far-non-repentant molester is kept away from the children!!

  3. Your collective efforts are admirable, but I really think that you’re all missing the point here. From what Lopin has suggested, there’s a very real chance that it’s the VICTIM that’s driving this plea (if the rumors are true about a no-jail plea on the way). If it is the victim driving it, then none of your letters or opinions are going to matter.

  4. Theoretically you may be right. In practice I think you are wrong. But we will find out next Tuesday. Truther, I assume you know Judge Dwyer’s reputation for extraordinary intelligence and integrity. I am willing to gamble on it. There are so many irregularities that need to be explained in this case. If he rjects the plea deal it will doubtlessly become Thompson’s to prosecute. You seem to think it will prove your point. I disagree. Once again, time will tell.

  5. I agree with your statements about Dwyer. Still, if the DA makes a record about a plea being blessed by the victim for some compelling-sounding reason or another, Dwyer will probably accept it.

  6. Dwyer is an excellent judge and the former Chief of Appeals for the Manhattan DA’s Office from what I can recall. He must be shaking his head in utter disbelief at the shambles and laughingstock this Brooklyn DA’s office has become as of late. You have as good a shot as any to make your case with this Judge.

    Truther makes a good point though. I don’t see the DA’s office giving a non-jail plea absent some sort of consent from the victim. Now they may have coaxed the victim into submission, but to give a non-jail plea in a case like this without the “consent” of the victim would be highly unusual. They could take the stance that some factor or issue has arisen that has made the case weak. Perhaps even, they just don’t care how it looks at this point given their go for broke strategy as of late and this is a parting gift to Aidela. I guess we shall see.

    • I’m praying that you are successful in this endeavor. However, I feel that I must say that in my many years I’ve never seen a Court question a consent not to prosecute or consent to accept a particular plea. Its even more dicey in the area of sex crimes.

      The issue is this- how do you prosecute a sex crimes case with an uncooperative victim? The DA can obtain a material witness order but its just not done in sex crimes cases. Its bad policy and the thought is that you would in effect be victimizing the victim all over again. No judge wants to be a party to that. I’m sure that you’ve looked at this from every angle and I’m guessing that what you are asking for is an ex parte conversation with the victim and the Court to ensure that the victim has been fairly dealt with.

      Whatever the case, good luck and all the best with this.

      • >However, I feel that I must say that in my many years I’ve never seen a Court question a
        >consent not to prosecute or consent to accept a particular plea.

        That’s precisely what happened in the Hynes fixed case of Rabbi Lewis/Lipa Brenner. The DA’s office went to the survivor of abuse and his family and pushed them into accepting an outrageous pleas agreement with no prison time. The same tactics were used as Hynes’ office used in the Rabbi Kolko case. This is the Hynes standard for fixing sex abuse cases in the Orthodox community. No jail time and no registration on the public sex registry (Rabbi Brenner was put on the non-public section of the sex abuse registry):

        Tripping Up The Prosecution
        By Stephanie Saul – Staff Writer
        Newsday – May 28, 2003

        In 1995, for instance, Hynes’ office charged Rabbi Lewis Brenner with repeatedly sexually abusing a boy starting in 1992 and ending in 1995, when the boy, then 15, told police. Among other places, the alleged encounters occurred in the bathroom of the rabbi’s Brooklyn temple.
        In a statement to the court, the boys’ devastated parents said he could not even attend school, he was so troubled by “a raging cyclone of hate.”
        “Our son is with us physically today, but his self-respect, dignity and sense of worth were stolen from him at the tender age of 12,” the boys’ parents said. “Do you realize that you destroyed a world and our family, Mr. Brenner? You have stolen from our son the very essence of his life, his hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future.”
        The charges against Brenner initially included 14 counts, including sodomy, sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a minor. But a plea agreement whittled the charges down to one felony, stunning a Brooklyn judge.
        “Given the nature, gravity and frequency of the sexual contact alleged in the felony complaint, this court was surprised by the People’s plea offer and requested of the prosecutor a statement why it was forthcoming,” said acting Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Heffernan in a court ruling.
        The district attorney’s office told the judge that the boy’s family agreed to the plea bargain … Recently, an official of the district attorney’s office said the family did not want to go through with a trial. The plea arrangement left Brenner a free man — he got 5 years probation.
        Brenner is the father-in-law of Ephraim Bryks, a Queens rabbi who was the subject of a story in Newsday on Tuesday. Two teenagers told Canadian police years ago that Bryks abused them when they were youngsters. Bryks has never been charged with a crime and has denied the allegations.
        After Brenner’s plea deal, he asked the court to exempt him from the sexual abuse registry on grounds that his behavior occurred before the law was passed. Heffernan refused.

  7. All true. I’m also betting that the victim not only consents, but purports to affirmatively want this plea for some compelling reason, true or not. I’m basing this bet on the settlement supposedly reached outside the criminal case. We shall see.

    • Truther, You have never met a sweetheart deal by the Brooklyn DA which you have not blamed on ultra orthodox community. Never! I grant you variation. I grant you that it is harder to get Hasidic victims to go the distance. However, overcome your mixture of adulation for a repudiated DA and your bigotry about Hasidim and recognize that sometimes victims will go the distance, especially with a DA also consistently inclined to support those embattled brave souls. If the DA put the effort into other cases he put into Weberman he would have had more trial victories and more plea bargains in line with those meted out to secular and Christian offenders in Brooklyn.

      Hynes through his subordinates, and through direct interventions has discriminated against orthodox abuse victims. He has a duty. If it includes prosecuting witness tampering and intimidation, then so be it. Instead, he has never secured a single day’s prison sentence for an orthodox intimidator/briber in 24 years. Not a single day.

      I believe Judge Dwyer will get it.

      • Truther/Spinner is just spinning.

        We all know how Hynes’ office really works. Work with the fixers to keep Orthodox sex offenders out of jail and off the public sex offender registry. This requires Hynes’ people to put pressure on the family to accept the plea agreement so that Hynes’s office can blame the survivors of abuse and their family for the plea agreement that was in fact initiated by Hynes and the fixers.:

        Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes would give no public explanation of why he suddenly dropped the high-profile molestation case. But its collapse resurrected questions in some quarters about Hynes’ competence or his political will in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing involving prominent institutions and individuals in Brooklyn’s politically powerful Orthodox community.

        Those questions were underscored by contradictions between the alleged victims’ account of how Hynes’ office secured their agreement to the plea deal and the account offered by the government.

        A law enforcement source told The Jewish Week that parents of the two child witnesses had reveresed their decision to allow the children to testify that Rabbi Kolko had molested them.

        The source said this fatally weakened the prosecution’s case in the wake of the discovery that the alleged adult victim had made false claims in an unrelated matter.

        But the alleged victims offered starkly different accounts.

        “My son was ready to go to trial, and we feel he would have done an excellent job,” the father of one of the children said. “The damage, pain and emotional stress Joel Kolko caused my family, and especially my son — we will never forgive him for this. … We are sorry to hear [the molestation] charges against him will not proceed.”

        The father, whose child is now 10, said that it was Hynes’ prosecutors who pressed him — not the other way around — to keep his son from testifying. The father said he eventually agreed when the prosecutors told him they could better pursue not just Rabbi Kolko but school administrators and the school itself via an alternative route.

        “I know all the hotshots at the DA,” the father said. “They actually want to get him on something more serious.”

        He declined to say what they told him this was. But a source close to the families of both alleged child victims who has been intimately involved in the case said the prosecutors spoke to the father about going after Rabbi Kolko and Rabbi Lipa Margulies, the yeshiva’s founder and administrator, on tax fraud charges, based on recently obtained school financial records that were reported by The Jewish Week. That would preempt any need for testimony from his son.

        But, according to the source, the same prosecutors offered a very different rationale when they approached the family of the second child and convinced the parents they need not put their son forward.

        “The DA told them that they think it’s best to do a plea deal because the other child was too young and his family was not allowing him to testify,” the source said. “This family was also ready and willing to put their child on the stand to testify and face Kolko. In fact, they believed, while difficult for their son to endure, it would be cathartic and benefit him.”

        The family declined to speak with a reporter. But the source, who has been with the family through the entire legal process, said they had asked him to speak for them. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear that the children, wo have not been publicly named, could be identified through him.

        “This child’s parents were from day one ready to have their son testify if it was necessary,” he stated. “And they were ready to go to trial. They had come to terms with the reality that their son was going to testify on the stand.”

      • Relax. All I’m saying is that we’ll see what is actually happening here. You’re the one who reported a settlement by the victim. Before hearing that, I had no idea. And, upon hearing that, my analysis is completely valid.

  8. More power to you. I don’t think Lebowitz can get off with time served. The New York Times will have that judge on the front page with an article on the ONGOING corruption in the Brooklyn DA’s office. I’m sure the new DA Ken Thompson has something to say on this, and he knows he was elected to stop this corruption.

    • >I don’t think Lebowitz can get off with time served.

      It happened in both the Rabbi Brenner and Rabbi Kolko cases. This is standard operating procedure in Hynes’ office with respect to plea agreements in cases of Orthodox child sex offenders. Hynes’ office will even try to keep Lebowitz off the public section of the sex abuse registry.

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