By Oren Yaniv (NY Daily News)
December 7, 2012
A dozen jurors deliberating the fate of a prominent Hasidic counselor Friday have a long road ahead of them, judging by the reactions of three excused alternates.
The jurors, sprung from Nechemya Weberman’s two-week trial on Friday, gave wildly divergent opinions on whether he’s guilty of sexually abusing a Brooklyn teen for three years.
“It’s a tough one,” said one former juror who declined to give his name. “I think they’re split down the middle. I was split down the middle as well.”
But the man said he would have convicted Weberman, 54, on at least some of the 60 counts that he’s facing.
A woman, who was also excused from the panel, disagreed.
“I didn’t hear enough evidence to nail the person,” she said. “No video, no DNA.”
The 12 remaining jurors — six men and six women — will continue deliberations Monday, a process during which minds are often changed.
Weberman is charged with sustained sexual conduct against a child younger than 13, which carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison. He also faces multiple counts of sex abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
The alleged victim testified for four days about being repeatedly touched since she was 12. She said she was forced to perform oral sex and reenact scenes from porn films.
No physical evidence was offered at trial, and Weberman took the stand in his own defense, denying he molested the girl. But he had to acknowledge a charity he ran was used to buy lingerie, and that he hosted other troubled teens at the home office where the alleged abuse took place.
“I think he’s guilty, but it’s a matter of what he’s guilty of,” said a third juror, a 41-year-old man from Canarsie.
He praised the testimony of the teenager, saying she had to obey authority, but still “decided to speak out.”
The defense has said the accuser concocted her story to exact revenge on her former mentor because he teamed up with her dad and set up her boyfriend to be arrested.
Jurors were introduced to the rules of the insular Satmar sect, where modesty is strictly enforced and youngsters who stray are sent for religious counseling. “I look at it as a blessing,” one of the jurors said of participating in the high-profile trial, “because I got to learn on a whole different culture.”