A counselor in Brooklyn’s fervently Orthodox Jewish community was sentenced to 103 years in prison on Tuesday for sexual abuse of a teenage girl who was under his treatment for an extended period.
Nechemya 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.
“If there is one message to take away from this case,” Hynes stated following the sentencing, “it is that this office will pursue the evil of sexual abuse of a child no matter where it occurs in this county. We must protect our children from sexual predators. 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 last month of sexual abuse of a child, as well as other charges. The young Brooklyn woman who stepped forward with the allegations against him is part of the Chassidic Satmar community. Brooklyn, home to the largest community of fervently Orthodox Jews outside of Israel, and the Satmar sect is mostly focused in the Williamsburg section.
While Mr. Weberman was not a licensed counselor, he spent many years working with couples and families within the community. Other women who were reportedly sexually abused by Weberman refused to come forward publicly for fear of retribution within the community. However, those close to them said Weberman would “shower outcast teens with attention, take them on road trips and even buy them lingerie.”
The victim who came forward, now 18 years old, bravely testified this week about the abuse that went on. It started when she was 12 and lasted for three years. She told a sympathetic jury that Weberman committed a number of highly inappropriate intimate acts with her.
She came to the Chassidic counselor after her teachers felt she was straying from the right path and recommended she speak to someone. The victim confided in Weberman that she was questioning her faith, and looked to him for guidance. Instead, he allegedly molested her.
“We regard her as a woman of courage to come forward at a very, very difficult time,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
The self-proclaimed “religious advisor” is said to have invoked Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, to convince his victims that his sexual relationship with them was “kosher.” He had supposedly told one of his young girls he was counseling, “I learned Kabbalah and we were a couple in another incarnation,” reports a confidant of the woman.
Because there was no physical evidence, the defense argued that the girl was angry that Weberman had told her parents that she had a boyfriend at the age of 15, which was forbidden in the community, and sought to seek revenge by testifying false information against him. They said the girl was a liar, and the case was a simple “he said, she said.”
Testifying on his own behalf, Mr. Weberman said he “never, ever” abused the girl, but the jury was not convinced: it took them merely hours to convict him on all 59 counts. Meanwhile, the unidentified victim is still healing.
“She is definitely going to need a lot of help,” said victim’s advocate Pearl Reich. “[But] this is the core therapy right now, the fact that he came out guilty and he’s going with handcuffs.”
Weberman’s lawyers have said they plan to appeal.
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