As he was sentencing an Orthodox Jewish Marine Park resident to a prison sentence of 20 years to life following the man’s conviction on child molestation charges, a Brooklyn judge strongly advised members of the man’s religious community to report all acts of child sexual abuse to authorities. “There is a duty for all adults to protect our children,” Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice stated in the courtroom. “And the only way they can be protected is if they cooperate with law enforcement.”
The judge issued his stern recommendation during the sentencing of 38-year-old Michael Sabo, who admitted he had sexually abused two children from the local Orthodox community. Sabo’s case was a prime example of how prosecutors can often have a difficult time obtaining the cooperation of young abuse victims in the tightly-knit Orthodox Jewish community.
While the conviction and sentencing reflected Sabo’s confession of guilt in the abuse of a 5-year-old boy over a five-year period beginning in 2001, and a 6-year-old girl for at least three years, the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes reported that it had obtained evidence of another seven children victimized by Sabo. According to Prosecutor Kevin O’Donnell, the DA could not get some of those children’s families to cooperate “because of the intimidation they thought they would endure as part of the Orthodox Jewish community.”
As the trial was rapidly approaching, the father of Sabo’s female victim was confronted at his shul and warned that the congregants would fully pack the courtroom and stare in an intimidating fashion at his daughter when she testified. During Sabo’s sentencing, the young male victim’s father read a letter to the courtroom that the boy, who is now 16, wrote. “You’re a miserable rotten piece of slime,” the letter stated. “I want to kill you over and over again. I hope you’ll never see another (happy day) again.”
Speaking on his own behalf, the boy’s father plaintively asked, “Why? Why did you hurt all these innocent children? They were young innocent children who did nothing. . . . You took away their trust in adults.” Sabo was liable to get hundreds of years in jail on the abuse charges as well as on other related charges.
The defendant’s lawyer said that his client had been a victim of molestation as a child, but had never gotten any professional assistance. “He languished, he suffered and, ultimately, he acted out as well,” the lawyer said. But close relatives of the victims were not sympathetic to these claims. Calling Sabo “a sociopath,” the female victim’s sister declared, “You ruined her childhood and perhaps her whole life. You are a monster.”
In order to obtain the shorter sentence, Sabo pled guilty as part of a plea agreement with the court just prior to the planned trial. The judge made the deal so that the two young victims would not have to testify at length in court and thereby relive their painful experiences.
As a child, Sabo attended Yeshiva Torah Temimah, which has been rocked by a child molestation scandal involving one of its rebbeim, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who has pleaded guilty to child endangerment. When asked if he had been abused by Kolko, Sabo said he was unable to recall any specific experiences. “My therapist says it’s repressed right now, but I don’t remember,” said Sabo.