A leader of an Orthodox Jewish sect in New York was sentenced Tuesday to 103 years in prison for sexually abusing a young girl, capping a scandal that lifted the lid on the Hasidic group’s parallel society.
Nechemya Weberman, a prominent figure in the ultra-strict Satmar branch of Hasidic Jews, was convicted of abusing the girl over the course of three years in the Brooklyn neighborhood where their community has a huge enclave and he worked as an unlicensed counselor.
Ahead of the judge’s sentencing, the victim told the court that Weberman acted “without the slightest bit of mercy,” leaving her as “a girl who didn’t want to live in her own skin.”
The case caused an uproar in the Satmar community, shattering a code of silence imposed by the group’s insistence on dealing with matters internally and not going to the police.
“If there is one message to take away from this case, it is that this office will pursue the evil of sexual abuse of a child no matter where it occurs,” District Attorney Charles Hynes said.
“The abuse of a child cannot be swept under the rug or dealt with by insular groups believing only they know what is best for their community. In this case, it took the courage of a young woman to drive home the point that justice can only be achieved through the involvement of civil authorities charged with protecting all the people.”
Weberman, 54, was convicted on 59 counts of criminal sexual acts, abuse, and child endangerment.
The trial was marred by allegations of intimidation by Weberman’s supporters, including an attempt to bribe the girl into dropping her case. Several men were also accused of illegally taking pictures of the accuser and putting them online.
The defense claimed that the girl made up the accusations to take revenge against Weberman for informing her parents that she’d revealed to him she was romantically involved with a boy - something banned in their community.
With no physical evidence, the young woman’s testimony was the prosecution’s key, as well as her composure under harrowing cross-examination by Weberman’s powerful legal team.
The jury sided with the accuser, who was 12 when the abuse started and has now married. AFP