Freundel To Appeal
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Freundel To Appeal

Victims say they are satisifed; lawyer says 6.5-year sentence is 'illegal.'

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Rabbi Barry Freundel will appeal the 6.5-year sentence he received for 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism, according to his lawyer, Jeffery Harris, who said the sentence was “illegal.”

Rabbi Freundel was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on Friday for videotaping dozens of nude women at a ritual bath.

“You repeatedly and secretly violated the trust your victims had in you and you abused your power,” Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin of D.C. Superior Court said at the sentencing, the Washington Post reported. Alprin also fined Freundel more than $13,000.

Bethany Mandel, one of Freundel’s victims who attended the sentencing, said she thought the sentence was fair.

“A lot of us worried that he would only be given a year,” she said. “We wanted this crime to be taken seriously, not for our own sake, but because if sexual crimes of this nature go largely unpunished, people will be more hesitant to press similar charges in the future.” Freundel’s sentence set an important precedent, she said.

In February, Freundel pleaded guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism for installing secret cameras in the shower room of the mikvah adjacent to Kesher Israel, the prominent Washington Orthodox synagogue he led for some 25 years.

“I think the sentence is harsh but more importantly is illegal in that consecutive sentences are not permissible based on the law and the facts,” he wrote to the Jewish Week in an email correspondence. Freundel was sentenced to 45 days on each of 52 counts of voyeurism to be served consecutively, which comes to 2,340 days in prison, or just less than six and a half years.

“We will we be asking the sentencing judge to correct this illegal sentence. If he does not we will appeal to the DC Court of Appeals.”

Rabbi Freundel used one to three cameras, hiding the devices in a digital clock radio, a tissue box holder and a small tabletop fan, and aiming them at the toilet and shower in the mikvah dressing room, according to the prosecution’s memo. In addition to the 52 women he filmed while they were completely naked between March 4, 2012 and Sept. 19, 2014, Freundel recorded an additional 100 women since April 2009 who were not part of the criminal complaint due to the statute of limitations.

At the sentencing, more than 70 victims and family members crowded into the main courtroom, and an additional 30 or so people were in an overflow courtroom. Several of the women wore orange blouses, scarves and other items to signal their solidarity in advocating prison time for Freundel, according to the Washington Post. After the sentence was read, there was a smattering of applause.

“It was more a collective exhale of relief,” said Mandel.

hannah@jewishweek.org

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