After Bad Press, Brooklyn DA Changes Course On Child Sex Abuse

By John Del Signore (Gothamist)
May 24, 2012

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes is desperately trying to extricate himself from a political scandal sparked by his refusal to release the names of ultra-Orthodox Jews suspected of child molestation, as well as letting powerful rabbis decide whether child abuse allegations should be reported to the police. Hynes's cooperation with the ultra-Orthodox community has been absolutely crucial to his reelection campaigns; he's won landslide victories in neighborhoods with large Jewish populations. Now, in the wake of a damning New York Times article about his handling of sex abuse cases in these communities, Hynes is... proposing legislation.

In an interview with the Times yesterday, Hynes said he "would push for state legislation to add rabbis and other religious leaders to the list of professionals required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities." This is a 180-degree reversal—multiple sources told the Times that Hynes "did not object when Agudath Israel of America... told him last summer that it was instructing adherent Jews to get permission from a rabbi before reporting allegations of sexual abuse to the authorities."

So after a lot of bad press, Hynes has decided to turn up the heat on the problem of child molestation. 26 states require clergy to report sexual abuse to the cops, but if it goes anywhere it'll be a miracle—similar legislation has languished in Albany for years. One bill, introduced almost ten years ago, would not require religious leaders to report past allegations. Hynes says his bill would be similar. The DA is also creating a task force "to crack down on witness intimidation in child sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community," the Times reports.

One source within ultra-Orthodox community tells the NY Post, "This is a community that operates under a parallel justice system right under Charles Hynes' nose, with Shomrim in place of the police and religious tribunals/rabbinical courts in place of the criminal- justice system." All this puts us in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Post columnist Andrea Peyser, who writes today, "A scandal of epic proportions is brewing in Brooklyn as District Attorney Charles Hynes uses kid gloves to handle creeps and demons charged with, or convicted of, sexual abuse that too often brutalizes children."