By Andrew Siff (NBC News)
May 16, 2012
A tense setting around a Brooklyn fundraiser in support of a man accused of child molestation resulted in two arrests for disorderly conduct Wednesday night.
The arrests came outside an event raising money for Nechemya Weberman, regarded as a sort of informal rabbi in his Orthodox Jewish community.
"I feel that he has to be given a fair chance for the accusations he's against," said one supporter who only gave his first name, Jacob.
Weberman was arrested last year after a 16-year-old girl said he forced her to perform oral sex and other acts during counseling meetings.
Residents in the tight-knit community said Tuesday that Weberman is well known and respected.
"We don't feel this is a real accusation," said Aron Kraus. "It's a false accusation."
Across the street from the event, protesters gathered with a different message.
"Why is this knee-jerk reaction to shun the victim and support the abuser?" asked Ari Mandel. "That's what enrages me."
Inside the fundraiser, some who donated money said they'd wait for the facts.
Jacob said he'd "feel sorry" for Weberman if a court of law or jury determined he was guilty.
"But he has to defend himself, and he needs the funds to defend himself," he said.
Weberman's attorney, George Farkas, said Weberman "totally, completely, 100 percent denies any guilt whatsoever."
His next court date is set for June 14.