by Zoë Blackler (The Guardian)
May 10, 2012
Hynes has repeatedly refused to respond publicly to accusations - revealed by the Guardian in March - that he has allowed rabbinical leaders to get away with covering up decades of abuse.
Advocates have questioned his policy of keeping the identities of alleged offenders secret, the number of arrests he claims credit for, and the intimidation of victims and their families who report abuse to the secular authorities.
But on Thursday night, Hynes, whose jurisdiction includes the world's largest ultra-Orthodox community outside Israel, told the Guardian: "The Brooklyn DA has the most active investigation, prosecution of any Orthodox members in the country. In LA or any major centre of Orthodox communities, there are no prosecutions."
He denied he was giving ultra-Orthodox offenders special treatment by refusing to divulge their names, insisting that it was necessary to protect victims in such a close-knit community.
"If this was the Chinese community I wouldn't release any information," he said. "Anyone who knows anything about the frum [observant Jewish] community understands by identifying defendants we would reveal the identities of victims and I won't have my victims harassed."
But victims' advocates are unconvinced by this argument. Speaking earlier on Thursday, Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind said: "When the DA says he's not releasing names because he wants to protect the victims – that confuses me very, very much. What about future victims? If my next-door neighbour is a perpetrator and I don't know about it, how are my kids being protected?
"If there is legitimate reason in some situation not to release certain information, I think we can live with it. But as a general policy, I don't understand it."
Hynes is under mounting pressure to take action against members of the ultra-Orthodox community who intimidate victims and their families. On Thursday, the New York Times reported on the community intimidation levelled against the victims of abuse.
Advocates say that this is preventing many victims coming forward, and many who do are forced to pull out of prosecutions before they reach court. As a result, the advocates claim, the number of arrests represents only a fraction of the true number of abuse cases.
The DA has also faced questions over the 92 arrests his office claims have been made since he launched his controversial Kol Tzedek outreach program in April 2009. Featuring a victims' hotline staffed by a culturally-sensitive social worker, it aims to encourage reporting of sexual assaults and to break the cover-up of child sex abuse by the Orthodox Jewish community.
Requests under New York's freedom of information law for details of the cases, submitted by the Jewish Forward newspaper, the Jewish Week and the Guardian, have been turned down by the DA's office.
Hynes said the program had been a "tremendous success", and dismissed the criticism of victims' advocates who say he has inflated the arrest numbers to exaggerate the program's success.
At least nine of the arrests the DA has attributed to Kol Tzedek arrests stem from before its launch in 2009, but Hynes was dismissive when asked to account for the numbers: "Tell you what maybe 92 less nine," he said.
He also cited the case of Michael Sabo, who admitted abusing two children over the course of several years in return for a plea deal, as evidence of success. "Perhaps the advocates will remember last week I sent an Orthodox pervert to jail for 20 years out of Kol Tzedek," he said.
Some advocates have alleged that Hynes' reluctance to take on rabbinical leaders over the cover-up of cases and intimidation of victims is down to fear of losing the massive block voting power of the ultra-Orthodox community.
Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice, urged Hynes: "Stop looking at your votes, stop looking at your next election. Do your job. Don't sell kids' lives for your next term."
But the DA denied he was worried about votes. "I've been around a very long time. All I have to do is satisfy 51% of the world to stay in this job. There are always going to be advocates who complain and advocates who think I do a great job."