By Josh Saul (NY Post)
December 5, 2012
He left himself wide open.
A Hasdic leader, on trial for allegedly molesting a 12-year-old girl, took the stand in his own defense yesterday — and ended up admitting that he raided his community nonprofit to pay for everything from his kid’s tuition to frilly lingerie.
Leaving himself vulnerable to a barrels-loaded cross-examination by Brooklyn prosecutors, accused child molester Nechemya Weberman denied sexually abusing a Williamsburg girl who had been sent to him for counseling sessions from the age of 12 to 15.
Defense attorney Michael Farkas asked him: “Mr. Weberman, have you ever inappropriately touched [the alleged victim]?”
To which Weberman answered, “Never ever.”
But once prosecutors got a crack at him, rather than hammer away at the sex-abuse allegations, they got the Satmar counselor to admit to a host of financial misdeeds.
“You used this not-for-profit for your own personal gain?” Assistant District Attorney Kevin O’Donnell asked.
“Yes, I did,” Weberman said.
The 54-year-old Weberman, a well-respected member of the Satmar sect, also copped to using money from his nonprofit organization, B’lev V’Nefesh, to pay for his own child’s tuition at the United Talmudical Academy, the very yeshiva that threatened to expel his accuser if she stopped seeing Weberman for counseling.
“So you’re getting a salary and paying your children’s tuition?” asked O’Donnell.
“I did if I needed to,” Weberman replied.
The most salacious details Weberman revealed about the nonprofit, which he claims to use to pay for housing and sabbath dinners for the poor, was that one of the nonprofit’s credit cards was used to buy lingerie.
“Doesn’t the organization buy lingerie?” asked O’Donnell, naming BMG Corset and Lingerie Shop in South Williamsburg, as well as other “unmentionables” stores.
“Maybe some other people in the organization did,” Weberman said.
The trial has provided a rare glimpse into the normally closed-off world of the Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox — and into the sometimes-squabbling sects within.
Besides using the nonprofit as his personal piggy bank, Weberman also used Vaad Ha’Tznius, the so-called modesty committee that enforces the strict dress codes of the Hasidic community, as his referral agency in the past.
“The Vaad Ha’Tznius would have people see you for counseling so you could make money?” O’Donnell asked.
“Yes,” said Weberman, who has 10 children and 18 grandchildren.
When asked if any of his children were no longer Satmar, he said, “No, thank God.”
His other lawyer, George Farkas, called prosecutors’ focus on the nonprofit an attempt “to paint this man as a dirty, money-grubbing Jew.”
Weberman also described his first counseling session with the victim — who turned 18 yesterday.
“She said, ‘Why should I trust you? Why should I talk to you? You look like a Hasidic f--k. You look like my father,’ ” Weberman testified.
The teen said Weberman was the first one who listened to her and she wanted to continue seeing him, he testified.
Earlier in the day, the defense called a woman who lived in Weberman’s office for two years.
Baila Gluck, 23, a pretty brunette who was raised Satmar, testified that she and several other young woman stayed in Weberman’s office at various times.
“Do you recall an occasion when [another girl] walked into the room and you were sitting on his lap and the defendant had an erection?” O’Donnell asked.
“No. That never happened,” Gluck answered.
Weberman was the defense’s last witness. Both sides will sum up today.