DA’s Statement on Orthodox Child Abusers Raises Eyebrows

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Professor Marci Hamilton charges that protecting the identities of Orthodox child abusers is a form of “enabling”.A statement by Brooklyn DA Hynes’s office that Orthodox Jews who have been charged with child abuse are entitled to have their identities kept private has raised eyebrows among a number of professionals involved with the issue. Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy told the Forward that such a policy is appropriate due to the Orthodox community’s close-knit nature and the likelihood that the revelation of an alleged perpetrator’s name would jeopardize the privacy of their victim.

“The circumstances here are unique,” Dennehy informed the Forward in a written statement. “Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants’ names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims.”

Dennehy’s statement came as a response from the DA’s office to a request by the Forward, under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, for the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on child sexual abuse charges during the past several years. While he referred to the state’s civil rights laws in his denial of the newspaper’s request, the Assistant DA did not explain whether prosecutors believed that each of the 85 suspects had any unique characteristics that might enable others to deduce their victim’s identity once they learned who the accused abuser was. He also did not explain whether such an across-the-board immunity might be granted to perpetrators of other insular communities in Brooklyn.

Dennehy further asserted that publicizing the names of child abuse suspects could negatively impact the progress of DA Hynes’ special hotline, Kol Tzedek, or Voice of Justice, which was established three years ago to encourage Orthodox abuse victims to approach the authorities.

 “If we were to reveal the names of Orthodox suspects, their victims could well lose faith in Kol Tzedek,” the Assistant District Attorney claimed, “and that would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings.”

Professor Marci Hamilton, who teaches law at Yeshiva University, said that the attitude displayed here by the Brooklyn DA’s office with regard to suspects is tantamount to “enabling” abusers.

“I think they are complicit in what enables these kinds of perpetrators in these kinds of communities if they are going… to refuse to publish names of any child predators,” Hamilton stated. “When names of perpetrators are made public, their other victims are empowered to come forward, and the whole community is given the power to identify and stop them and other predators.”

Hamilton added: “What the DA’s office is doing, unfortunately, is playing right into the hands of the abusers.”

Daniel Mullkoff, who serves as a legal fellow with the New York Civil Liberties Union, echoed Hamilton’s contentions.

“In this case, the public has raised concerns about what the district attorney is doing,” Mullkoff said. “Withholding of this information is without a legal basis and denies access to just the type of information that the public records law seeks to make public.”

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