An Open Letter to DA Thompson About the Schnitzler Plea Bargain

Marci V Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Dear Mr. Thompson,

Constitutional lawyer and law professor, Marci A. Hamilton, laid into you for the “sweetheart deal” your office gave to Meilech Schnitzler who assaulted anti-abuse activist, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg. Drawing on my Frum Follies article and the New York Times report, she wrote:

There is the specter in Brooklyn of a sweetheart plea deal for the criminal who threw bleach on the face of the bravest advocate of sex abuse survivors in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community……

The day after the Weberman verdict, Meilech Schnitzler approached Rosenberg and threw bleach in his face. But for the quick action of a person who threw a cup of water on Rosenberg’s face, he might be blind today.

In a move that has sent chills through the ultra-Orthodox survivor community, Thompson cut a deal with Schnitzler that will hardly deter future violence against the survivors’ advocates. Instead of serving the years in prison… Schnitzler… received nothing but unsupervised probation. To quote Rosenberg, “Probation in our circles is a joke.”

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg in hospital gown

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg in hospital gown

Mr. Thompson, your office will insist it handled this case like any other. However, I doubt that claim. You breached your own standards by not properly notifying the victim of the deal. I spoke to a close associate of Rabbi Rosenberg the day before the plea bargain, and he assumed yet another routine court appearance.  If he had known about the deal I am sure Nuchem would have been talking to this associate who he usually contacts several times a day.

In justifying the deal to the New York Times the office of the DA claimed, “Rabbi Rosenberg’s injuries were not permanent.” Thankfully, the assault failed and he was not left blind. However, Rabbi Rosenberg is still visiting physicians about the after-effects and he is still on a regimen of eye drops to alleviate persistent discomfort. In the weeks after the attack, he was in excruciating pain while recovering from his injuries and he was on a pain relief regimen.

Meilech Schnitzler

Meilech Schnitzler

This was a premeditated assault. According to the New York Times “Schnitzler’s lawyer, Israel Fried, said his client had been cleaning the outside of his store with bleach that morning and had thrown the cup during an argument with the rabbi.”

Really? According to a New York Times report at the time, “Primo Santiago, the manager of Roebling Liquors, at 311 Roebling Street, said that he saw the attack take place. He said he was unlocking his store when he saw a man rushing across the street with a cup of liquid.”

For the record, Roebling is a busy, wide, four-lane street.” It beggars the imagination to believe that someone would run that distance with a full cup of bleach in his hand, as if it was his water bottle. According to Rabbi Rosenberg, no words were exchanged. In fact, Schnitzler came up from behind, tapped him on the shoulder, waited for Rosenberg to turn around, and then threw the bleach.

In spite of the pre-meditated assault with a weapon (per indictment) and lingering harm, your Office let Schnitzler off without any jail time.

The District Attorney’s office seems to feel that nothing about Rabbi Rosenberg’s case required special attention. You treated it like an altercation gone bad with trivial consequences, rather than a premeditated assault aimed at blinding Rabbi Rosenberg. By the same logic, Menachem (Max) Stark’s murder was also just another case. But your office, in deference to the inflamed sensibilities of the Satmar community, fought for and got jurisdiction of the case from Nassau County. Normally, homicide cases are tried in the jurisdiction where the body is found.

Mr Thompson, we read you loud and clear: Hasidic murder victims merit special attention, but not Hasidic sex abuse victims, and especially not anti-abuse activists, or victims of intimidation. They get routine attention even though they are subjected to extraordinary harassment. Meawhile, those who obstruct justice, like Abraham Rubin, are celebrated by the Hasidic leaders whose events you attend.

Kenneth Thompson

Kenneth Thompson

Mr. Thompson, you promised a passion for justice when you were running for office. One of your campaign surrogates privately assured me that your office would take the effort to properly understand the orthodox community so it could effectively deal with child sex abuse. Another of your surrogates privately assured me that your office was going to be sensitive to how it was perceived by victims to overcome the Hynes-era reluctance to trust the DA.

Right now, I would definitely advise victims to trust your office to prosecute their cases. But I fear a potentially corrosive vicious cycle. The more you are seen palling with the orthodox leadership and the less you are seen confronting intimidation, the less your office will be trusted.

Mr. Thompson, please be the DA you can be and want to be. You do not need the votes of the ultra-orthodox block. You won your primary even though most of the ultra-orthodox votes went to Charles Hynes. I know you care. Please take the leap of faith and turn your sentiments into action. Your legacy will not be determined by the glib, opportunistic high-fives of the leadership. It will be determined by the gratitude of victims. Most important to your legacy will be the satisfaction of knowing there are kids who will have no idea of what you accomplished because they will pass through childhood carefree and unmolested.



19 thoughts on “An Open Letter to DA Thompson About the Schnitzler Plea Bargain

  1. No matter what Mr Rosenberg thinks, 5 years Probation is no joke. You have curfew every night, you cannot leave the state without permission. Its more than just an inconvenience they really control your life.
    I disagree that this was such a sweetheart deal. He was a first time offender, Rosenberg didn’t sustain any lasting damages, and above all Rosenberg Provoked him by walking into his store and telling him how he was going to get his father jailed.

    I for one will not jump on the excessive jail-time bandwagon. Besides which violent criminal acts are not longer viewed by society as the lowest form of human behavior. Now if they could have proved wire fraud…. than you would have seen your 25 years.

    • Ayin tachas ayin. Harming the protector of children from being raped is like raping society at large. Attacking a Police officer protecting society deserves much more harsh punishment. We the people owe to R’ Nochum our full support and more for putting himself in harms way to protect our young. Remember the yiddishe mames that threw themselves on their young only to absorb the bullets of the Nazis. Bemokom she’ein ish hishtadel lihyos ish. Lock him up and throw away the key. As for the ra bonim, there is a special place for them in geihenom that is packed to the hilt. Protecting molestors, not even the devil wants any part of it. You will have the same fate as C.H. and all other reshoim.

    • 1. I am not aware of nightly curfews. However, even if you are right about that, unless he is electronically tethered, no one in Williamsburg will snitch on him if he violates.

      2. the rule about leaving the state is inconvenient, but rabbis, askanim, and hired professionals will line up to get him permission when ever he really needs it.

      3. Yes he was a first time offender.

      4. Rosenberg did sustain lasting damage. He is on what can turn into a lifetime regimen of presecribed eye drops and regular medical consultations. However, luckily he is not blind, in spite of Schnitzlers attempt.

      5. Rosenberg did not walk into Schnitzler’s fish store. According to the New York Times, ” Primo Santiago, the manager of Roebling Liquors, at 311 Roebling Street, said that he saw the attack take place. He said he was unlocking his store when he saw a man rushing across the street with a cup of liquid. “I saw the one guy throw something at the other guy’s face,” he said.” According to the same Times article, Schnitzler tapped Rosenberg from behind, waited for Rosenberg to turn, and threw the bleach into his face. BTW, Roebling is a busy, two-way, four-lane street. So it had nothing to do with Rosenberg walking into his store, and it was premeditated.

      From your comments I gather you would consider it excessive to put someone in jail for 30 days for a premeditated attempt to blind someone.

  2. Read the facts: Schnitzler wasn’t some community vigilante dispatched by a shady cabal. Rosenberg walked into Schnitzler’s store and promised him he would see his father in jail for sex abuse crimes. Shnitzler than out of uncontrolled anger assaulted him with the bleach.

    I know we are short on hero’s in this fight for victims of sexual abuse, but Rosenberg’s lack of forethought and hindsight (read: intelligence) is critically lacking.

    • You are repeating yourself, perhaps because you did not see my reply posted just a few minutes before your comment: So again:

      Rosenberg did not walk into Schnitzler’s fish store. According to the New York Times, ” Primo Santiago, the manager of Roebling Liquors, at 311 Roebling Street, said that he saw the attack take place. He said he was unlocking his store when he saw a man rushing across the street with a cup of liquid. “I saw the one guy throw something at the other guy’s face,” he said.” According to the same Times article, Schnitzler tapped Rosenberg from behind, waited for Rosenberg to turn, and threw the bleach into his face. BTW, Roebling is a busy, two-way, four-lane street. So it had nothing to do with Rosenberg walking into his store, and it was premeditated.

      Dopamine, why should we believe Schnitzler’s self-serving version over the testimony of a disinterested eyewitness, an Hispanic bystander with no dog in this fight.

  3. I actually think Thopmson did the right thing.
    Rosenberg is an extreme agitator.He is brilliant at it, in the mold of Sharpton from twenty years back.It could be that you do not listen to his Yiddish reports where his brilliant flair for agitation really comes out.On these so called lectures he lets free, attacking anyone and everyone he wants , with half truths and zero truths.I can understand the anger he can cause in these harangues.
    Frankly, I”m surprised that he has not been mobbed, tarred and feathered.He lives in the neighborhood and agitates against them
    Of course law of the land must prevail and therefore, since this is a first offence, the punishment fits the crime.

    • Thank you for illustrating the lawless mindset of many in Williamsburg. If you really don’t like someone, you shouldn’t have to spend a single day in jail for trying to blind someone.

      I agree Rabbi Rosenberg gets loads of people very angry. I thought yidden, especially Haredi yidden, believe what the torah says about not shedding blood. I thought that such anti-Zionist yidden who believe in respecting secular authority in Golus should also believe in dina dimalchusa dina. But you are like the Reform Jews you complain about, who always find a heter for what they want to do, except they speak about the spirit of the times and you speak about the spirit of Williamsburg.

      Yes, I have listened to a number of Reb Nuchem’s droshos. Yes he gets people angry and he is disrepsectful to many noafim, gazlanim, askanim (without emunah) and others.

      Don’t make it seem like Rabbi Rosenberg is the only victim of violence by Hasidim in Williamsburg. What’s about those beat almost to death in the wars between the beirach Moshe and the Bnai Yoel, between Zaalis and Aroinis, between Yoelish and the Klausenberger Rebbe, between Satmar and Lubavitch.

      Come on, let’s hear all about how all of that violence was justified. The biggest violence of all, is the rape and molestation of children happening all over the place, even in the mikvas and cheders. All this you are OK with, but let Nuchem Rosenberg be prust about someone and suddenly the heavens fall and violence is treated as nothing worse than parking illegally or violating the zoning code, or underpaying income taxes.

      I probably wouldn’t have bothered to answer you in your rant about Rosenberg, but then you got really dishonest and made believe you actually believe”Tthe law of the land must prevail.”

      Yankel, at least come back and be honest that you don’t really think the law of the land must prevail. that is just something you say for the outside world.

      • Hey!
        I see you took a page out of the anti social, uncouth Scott Rosenberg book, eh?
        Why are you attacking me, did I attack you?
        Than you take a page out of the wagging-finger-know-it-alls and start lecturing to me about “dina demalchusa”, how Chareidi Jews are supposed to follow it, blah, blah, as if I had intimated ANYWHERE that people should resort to violence or that I have anything whatsoever to do with Williamsburg, which I don’t, but that’s besides the point.

        All I said that Rosenberg (cut the “rabbi” he is no rabbi)is an agitator. A first time offender who had to hear vile accusations against his father cannot be judged as harshly as you or Rosenberg would want.

        Fancy this:You and Failed Messiah Rosenberg and the “good rabbi” Rosenberg, were all
        pushing this Thompson fellow, suddenly when he does jump as high as you guys want he is “evil”.
        Have you listened to Rosenbergs tapes in Yiddish? I suspect you have not.The guy is an absolute pervert who gets a kick out of discussing sexual issues, especially homosexuality.Apparently he is similar to J.Edgar Hoover, who also accused everyone of being gay, but forgot to look at his own face in the mirror


      • I totally agree with “I Support”. Yankel is a lowlife, a word that I have never had the pleasure or impetus of using until now. Ad hominem is not appropriate for he his not human.

  4. 1. Nuchem Rosenberg is a rabbi. He has smichah from Yechiel Epstein, o”h of the Eidah Charedis bais din, he has written on mikvaos, he paskens for many kehilos on mikvah construction, and he teaches about construction & operation of mikvaos.

    2. You trivialized and minimized an attempt to blind someone, which is shficas dom. You did it by talking about how unpopular he is. The attack happened in Williamsburg, the community in which he lives and which he focuses on more than even the rest of the chasidish world. So it made sense to discuss the culture of Williamsburg that rationalizes the attack, since it happened on Roebling St., one of Williamsburgs main commercial stretches.

    3. You used an ad hominem attack where you made the personality of Rosenberg the issue but your underlying agenda was justifying the sentence. Now you are trying to avoid my reactions by going on and on about Failed Messiah’s Shmarya Rosenberg.

    4. I credited Thompson for eliminating some corruption but criticized him for not doing much about intimidation.

    5. There are a lot of Chasidish boys being molested. I happen to think that some of their chasidish molesters are heterosexual but will settle for boys because it is harder to get to girls in the chasidish world. However, mishkav zachor is definitely involved in some cases. And some of the chasidish molesters are homosexual in their basic preference/orientation and only get married because they want to look normal in the chasidish world where gay marriage is definite not OK. Nuchem also says, if you are homosexual, and won’t stop yourself, go do it with a willing adult, but don’t rape our boys. do you have a problem with that position?

  5. I”m not going to discuss Rosenbergs supposed rabbinic credentials so let’s clear that away right from the start.
    Point number 2)I did not trivialize anything.I said that the fellow saw red because this agitator had been badmouthing his dad in the most vile way.
    I stated clearly that the law of the land must still prevail.
    I “LIKED” your little talmudical twist while you were wagging you finger:” an attempt to blind someone, which is shficas dom. ” Why are you adding “shfichas dom”? Do you want to show-off some Hebrew skills?And if he beat him with a baseball bat would that not be “shefichus domim”?Whatever…
    Btw :”Roebling St., one of Williamsburgs main commercial stretches.” Roebling street in the Jewish part of Williamsburg is not a very “big commercial strip”Apparently you have not been around there to much.Hint:Use Google Maps to get an idea.

    Jumping to number 5
    Firstly back up your :”There are a lot of Chasidish boys being molested.”
    What does a” lot ” mean and how do you know any real numbers?
    You are picking on the Chasidic community because it’;s easy.They look different, they are not as media savvy , a lot of the Modern O and secular communities are projecting their own problems onto the Chasidics.
    The problems you point out that Homosexuals seek out boys for affairs would be just as applicable by Modern Orthodox and by Christian denominations where homosexuality is prohibited.

    Bottom line is that problems exist everywhere because people are human.The deviance that Rosenberg and his ilk are promoting as being in supposedly high numbers is projection of their own desires

    • You said he wasn’t a rabbi, but when I give you specifics you won’t discuss them. Way to go!

      You were trivializing by saying it was’t really much of an attack and besides he provoked it so zero days in jail is enough.

      Re shfichas dom. Blindness is considered like death in rabbinic writing . I assumed you would get the allusion. My bad!

      I disagree with you about the Roebling, but who cares. The important point is that it is a two way, four lane & busy street. That matters for assessing whether someone could have run across it with a cup of bleach but then claim the attack was not premeditated.

      A lot means I am assuming the same rate of sex abuse in the chasidish world as in most of the rest of the world which about 20% by the time they reach 18 years of age. No one has good numbers specific to the frum community, but the fact that almost all molesters get protected the rate might be higher, maybe much higher since most kids are not educated in sex abuse or child safety and chasidish kids are socialized to respect and obey adults, especially adult men (from their own community)

      Poor you, Yankel. You feel I am picking on Chasidim. Actually, I also criticize the Yeshivish world (e.g., my extensive coverage of the Yosef Kolko trial) and the modern orthodox world (my attention to the YU scandal, the OU, and the Evan Zauder matter, and combinations (such as my coverage of Dovid Weinberger in the 5T which is mostly a mix of MO and Yeshivish). But since I am writing about Schnitzler attacking R. Rosenberg in Williamsburg, I talk of chasidim. Did you want me to claim I was writing that story about Sephardim, Eskimos or Reform Jews?

      Yes, child molesting occurs everywhere. Some communities fight it and others cover it up. Chasidim usually cover it up with a few notable exceptions. Those of you that don’t like Rabbi Rosenberg’s tactics can solve the problem by cleaning it up.

  6. to: YL

    FYI the intersection on Roebling is right across from Schinitzers store. So yes It did happen as i described. Do your research. You wont find the original (in the store altercation) anywhere in the guilty plea or in the indictment, because it didn’t directly involve the crime which happened in a different location. You can bet though that they would have used that as mitigating factors if it had gone to trial.

    Why don’t you ask Nochum what happened? he’ll tell you himself.

      • What does that witness have to do with anything. He witnessed shnitzler assaulting him on thee street. How would he have seen what went on in the fish store.

        Come on. I though you had inside info on these things

        • I quoted a disinterested witness. He also testified to the grand jury that indicted Schnitzler. Schnitzler’s lawyer has complete access to the grand jury testimony and can choose to release it with Schnitzler’s consent. If you have proof of your version, put it out there.

          However, even, if as you claim contrary to other testimony, there was first an altercation inside the fish store, the bleach attack was not a case of a momentary impulse. He waited and ran across the street to try to blind Rabbi Rosenberg. What sort of a Jew defends deliberately blinding someone? Is this the new shitah?

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