By Michael Orbach (The Jewish Star)
Issue of July 24, 2009 / 3 Av 5769
The father of a boy allegedly molested at age 6 by a neighbor wants other parents to know: his son’s accused molester is free and still has access to children.
Michael Sabo, 35, a registered nurse from Marine Park, Brooklyn, surrendered to police on May 11th and pleaded not guilty to a single count of sexual abuse and three counts of child endangerment. He is accused of molesting the boy eight years ago. He is currently free on $50,000 bail.
“What bothers me the most is, he’s still out there. He lives down the block from a yeshiva. He’s in the health care field…He might even be upstate as we speak,” said “Joseph,” the father of the boy, who asked that his real name not be printed.
Joseph said that he and his son believe that Sabo has molested other children.
“I’m not doing this to get back at him. I’m doing this to protect other children. Even my son feels [Sabo] has others …I need to know he’s away for a long time so he cannot hurt another child again.”
Sabo recently divorced but reportedly still has access to the house where his young children live with his ex-wife. The family home on Burnett Street is down the block from one yeshiva on Nostrand Avenue and around the corner from another one, Yeshiva Derech HaTorah, which his sons attend. Sabo is often seen on Shabbos mornings at Kingsway Jewish Center. Sabo’s father owns a vacation home at the Clearview Bungalow Colony in Monticello, according to Joseph. A member of the colony confirmed Monday that Sabo was a guest at Clearview for at least one Shabbos this summer, so far.
Joseph discovered the alleged sexual abuse in late April when a third-party brought to his attention nine photos of his son that were discovered online. The pictures, in which the boy was wearing a yarmulke, were several years old and pornographic in nature. Each photo was accompanied by a caption that included the boy’s name and address and a phrase that indicated that the then-six-year-old boy had been molested.
Joseph identified Sabo from the photos, which he said were taken in Sabo’s son’s bedroom.
“In one of the pictures was his watch, it was a silver watch that had links on it. It was a stainless steel silver-ish watch. We noticed other pictures in his son’s bedroom and that’s how I realized it was him,” Joseph said.
“Everyone thought he [Sabo] was the ideal dad. The one that plays ball with the kids, the one that goes camping with them. When people heard, they thought it couldn’t be true. But it is,” Joseph said.
The pictures were posted under the screen name nymale74, which corresponds to Sabo’s birthday, according to public records and his Facebook page.
When Joseph approached his son about the photos his son, now in his early teens, told him that Sabo had molested him repeatedly over the course of two years. “He came home from school that day and didn’t stop talking about it,” said Joseph.
Joseph filed a police report, and then contacted the office of Assemblyman Dov Hikind who recently launched a campaign to combat child abuse in the Jewish community. Hikind’s office declined to confirm details about the case but two sources say Hikind placed Joseph in touch with the District Attorney and Joseph’s son then testified before the grand jury. The charges were filed about a week later.
Joseph said that his son is doing well.
“The therapist basically said that what we did by believing him and trusting what he said, and not doubting, that was 75% of the cure. Bringing him in to testify and knowing that Sabo will get his punishment is a cure for my son.”
In a telephone interview Sabo called himself “a regular guy” with “regular, run-of-the-mill issues.”
“You know more than me apparently,” Sabo told a reporter who asked about the case. “This will pass. It might not be tomorrow. For all I know they could dismiss everything. You never know.”
He hopes to move past the allegations. “I have four beautiful children, who need a father,” Sabo said.
Sabo attended Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn. The school was made infamous when its owner, Lipa Margulies, deflected investigations of a longtime teacher, Yehuda Kolko, who last year pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child endangerment and who is suspected of widespread sexual abuse. Sabo said he could not recall if he had been a victim of sexual abuse by Kolko.
“My therapist says it’s repressed, right now, but I don’t remember,” said Sabo. Most sexual abusers were themselves abused as children, according to psychological literature.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney said the DA would not comment on open cases.
Arthur Gershfeld, Sabo’s lawyer, said that they were “confident” that “the allegations are not going to be supported by the evidence,” and that his client denied the allegations.
A spokesperson for Extended Homecare, where Sabo worked a nurse, said Sabo was no longer employed there.
Family members or friends are the perpetrators in 75-80 percent of all sexual abuse cases, according to Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University professor and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect its Children. Hamilton also said that the particulars of this case are becoming more common.
“That predators are on the web and using the web not only for their own [purposes] but to communicate with other pedophiles about the availability of the boy,” explained Hamilton. “This is probably not his first victim. If the media can come out with one child’s accusation it will embolden and strengthen other children” who may have been abused “and then they can come forward.”
Rabbi Mark Dratch, the head of JSafe, an organization that promotes awareness and prevention of sexual abuse inside the Jewish community, said that while inroads against sexual abuse have been made, much more needs to be done.
“We’ve been more successful in publicizing cases against rabbis and teachers, but our community is no different from any others,” Rabbi Dratch said. “Sexual abuse is much more common against family members and neighbors than amongst teachers and rabbis. The case that you have here is the tip of the iceberg.”
Sabo’s next hearing is scheduled for September 10th.
“My son is willing to testify. I made it clear. I don’t want a settlement. I want [Sabo] to be put away as long as possible,” Joseph said, “When those jurors see a twelve year-old on the stand they’ll do the right thing.”
If you have additional information about this story email Michael Orbach at morbach [at] thejewishstar.com