Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed therapist charged with sexually abusing a young Satmar chasidic girl he was counseling, faces 117 years in jail after being convcited of 59 counts in the case. A jury delivered the verdict Monday afternoon in state Supreme Court, the first full day after deliberations began on Friday.
Weberman faced a total of 88 counts brought by prosecutors, all related to the same victim, but the charges were consolidated to 59 when the case went to the jury.
The abuse took place over the course of several years, beginning when she was 12 and ending in 2010, and shed light not only on the apparent reluctance of some chasidic Jews to expose and punish abusers, but on the inner workings of an insular community in which self-appointed “modesty committees” act to punish those deemed to be violatiing strict halachic standards of behavior. The girl’s family was forced to send her to Weberman because she was defying the community’s dress code, communicating with boys and asking questions about the existence of God, court testimony suggested.
“The victim showed great courage to come forward in a very difficult time,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J.Hynes. “Hopefully, this verdict will lead to the understanding for other women that they can come forward as well.”
Jewish organizations that advocate for sexual abuse victims have criticized the manner in which Hynes investigates crimes in the Orthodox community and his practice of keeping the names of abuse suspects sceret, but in this case he charged several people with witness tampering and also four men who photographed the victim in court.
According to a release from Hynes, Weberman was convicted on one count of Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child in the First Degree, 12 counts of Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree, two counts of Criminal Sexual Act in the Third Degree, 18 counts of Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree, 25 counts of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
The first charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. Weberman remains in custody and will be sentenced before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Ingram on January 9 at 10 a.m.
In a statement reacting to the verdict, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Borough Park and Flatbush, said “As someone who has been involved in this issue from the beginning, I am encouraged by this young lady’s courage in standing up for herself. I am hopeful that if other young people believe themselves to be victims of abuse that they too will come forward. Silence only protects the guilty.”
In another statement, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, said, “Weberman’s conviction is validation of our commitment to work with law enforcement to protect the innocent victims of our community and to hold their perpetrators accountable.”
An abuse survivor and advocate for victims who attended the trial, Joe DiAngello, told The Jewish Week he was elated by the outcome.
“After years of being called a liar about the Vaad [modesty committee] and all the abusers, myself and others feel validated and won’t stop till all these injustices end,” DiAngello said.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story contained inaccurate information about the number of charges against Weberman that went to the jury.
Hella Winston contributed to this report.