By Hella Winston (Jewish Week)
June 23, 2012
A 13-year-old boy who alleges he was molested by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko told a Brooklyn jury on Thursday that he felt "scared" when the rabbi -- whom he identified from the stand -- stared at him on the street on two occasions in late 2010.
Rabbi Kolko is currently on trial for violating an order of protection requiring him to refrain from having any contact with the boy. The order was part of a 2008 plea deal stemming from charges that Rabbi Kolko sexually abused the boy when he was a first grader in Kolko's class (charges were also brought against the rabbi for allegedly abusing another boy).
Rabbi Kolko -- who has been dogged by child molestation allegations for over 30 years -- ultimately pleaded to lesser charges of child endangerment and received probation; he was not required to register as a sex offender.
The plea deal has drawn criticism from advocates and some observers because of the lack of jail time and/or mandatory sex offender registration. But the district attorney has defended the plea, claiming that neither family wanted their child to testify and noting that both signed a document consenting to the deal.
However, The Jewish Week reported at the time that both families claimed they were willing to have their sons testify. The paper also obtained a letter written by one of the fathers to the district attorney and dated one day after he signed off on the plea deal, stating that "[m]y son was ready to go to trial and we feel he would have done an excellent job and I am sorry to hear that [the case against] Joel Kolko will not proceed further."
In the current case, Rabbi Kolko is alleged to have violated the protection order by menacing the boy, allegedly "glaring" at him, according to court papers, as he walked with his father to shul on two successive Fridays. Rabbi Kolko's attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz, has denied that the rabbi glared at or otherwise looked at the boy in an angry way.
Jurors have not been allowed to hear anything about the underlying crime that ultimately resulted in the order of protection as it could prejudice the case. However, an argument raised by one of the assistant district attorneys, Elizabeth S. Doerfler, resulted in a ruling by the judge to allow the father to testify that he had been made aware by his son of "wrongful acts" allegedly committed against him by Rabbi Kolko even before the order of protection was in place.
The trial is set to continue next week but, regardless of its outcome, the boy told The Jewish Week that the experience of testifying was a positive one for him.
"I felt real good because what Kolko did to me and many boys was wrong. I always thought judges were very mean," he added. "But this judge was very understanding to me and I felt protected."