By Hella Winston (The Jewish Week)
May 17, 2012
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is apparently considering convening "a law enforcement expert committee to think about an approach" to the problem of witnesses intimidation in ultra-Orthodox sex abuse cases, The Jewish Week has learned.
It's a problem Hynes claims produces a "terror" in Orthodox Jewish victims far greater than that experienced by those "who deal with crooked public officials or organized crime thugs." That is because they "believe they have no option but to remain living in the community which threatens to destroy them."
Hynes expressed his interest in convening such a committee, which was suggested to him by former Mayor Ed Koch, in a sometimes passionate but friendly e-mail exchange carried out between the two in the wake of intense media scrutiny of Hynes' handling of Orthodox sex abuse cases.
The e-mail exchange was made available by Mayor Koch to The Jewish Week in what some advocates see as a calculated public relations gambit to portray Hynes as knowledgeable and concerned about the problem, but hamstrung by the particular nature of the Orthodox community.
It takes place after Koch on Monday publicly called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor for sex-crimes against Orthodox victims in Brooklyn if Hynes did not announce that he would prosecute those who impede his investigations and begin to publicly name those in the community who are charged.
In one of the e-mails, Hynes claims that his office has received numerous "allegations that some rabbis were actively counseling, intimidating and harassing victims of sexual abuse, coercing them from reporting abuse to authorities." But he goes on to note that, while he has considered having a victim wear a wire, to date his office has "never been successful in getting a victim to agree to the level of cooperation."
Some people aren't buying that.
"Hynes is acknowledging that he both understands and is directly aware of the severity of the problem, yet he needs our esteemed former mayor to suggest a solution?" quipped Ros Dann, a spokesperson for the advocacy organization Survivors for Justice.
"The fact is, SFJ has brought complainants to the DA's office with complaints of direct intimidation, who wanted to file charges and were willing to cooperate in any investigation," Dann continued. "The DA not only did nothing, but ignored repeated attempts by these complainants to follow-up with his office. We have the paper trail to prove it."
The e-mail exchange between Hynes and Koch ends on a note of good cheer, with a plan for the two to have a "celebratory lunch on Mayor Koch" — after Hynes "get[s] lucky with one or more of these Community criminals who hide behind their religion and act like Mafia Dons."