by Hella Winston, 10/13/09
Special to The Jewish Week
Baruch Lanner, a former yeshiva high school principal and religious youth group counselor who was convicted in 2002 in New Jersey of sexually abusing two teenage girls, appears no longer to be on the New Jersey, Florida or national sex offender registries.
Lanner, 59, an ordained Orthodox rabbi, was sentenced to seven years in prison, but did not begin serving his sentence until 2005, after his conviction was upheld on appeal. He was released on parole in January of 2008. According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Lanner's parole ends next month.
Lanner's arrest and conviction were prompted by reporting in The Jewish Week, beginning in June 2000, based on allegations made over a period of three decades by dozens of young men and women who had been under his charge at the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), the Orthodox Union youth group he directed, as well as at the Hillel yeshiva high school in Deal, N.J., where he was principal for many years.
According to information posted online by Vicki Polin, the founder of The Awareness Center, Lanner's name appeared on both the New Jersey and Florida registries as recently as 2008. He lived in both states following his release from prison.
However, an online search of these registries this week by The Jewish Week did not include Lanner's name.
A call to the Monmouth County prosecutor's office, which tried the case, was not immediately returned. But a spokesman for a prosecutor's office in another New Jersey county told The Jewish Week that information about why someone may have been removed from the sex offender registry is "confidential" and not a matter of public record, though she did indicate that it is possible for an offender to apply to the court to be removed from the registry.
The point of the registry is to make public known sex offenders.
Based on information posted on the Web site of the New Jersey Attorney General, it seems unlikely that Lanner would have been able to make a successful application to be removed from the registry. According to the site, "All sex offenders subject to Megan's Law must register for the remainder of their lives. Sex offenders may apply to the court to be removed from the Sex Offender Registry if they committed only one offense, have not committed another offense for 15 years, and prove that they are not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others. Juvenile sex offenders may also apply to the court to be removed from the Sex Offender Registry if they were under the age of 14 at the time of their offense but are now over the age of 18."
None of these criteria appears to apply to Lanner.
The Jewish Week contacted the New Jersey Attorney General's office, which is looking into the matter.
In a Jewish Week article from Jan. 4, 2008, on the occasion of Lanner's release from prison, Elie Hiller, a former NCSY assistant director under Lanner who helped lead community opposition to him in New Jersey, said: "I expect some of the victims will have a bit of anxiety, but I hope they realize that his release does not change the fact that he has a criminal record and remains on the Megan's Law list."