By Josh Saul (NY Post)
December 10, 2012
A once-revered ultra-orthodox Jewish leader was convicted in Brooklyn today of sexually abusing a young girl in his care from the time she was just 12 years old.
Jurors found Satmar Hasidic leader Nechemya Weberman guilty on all 59 counts against him, including the top charge of prolonged sexual conduct against a child.
Weberman, who was immediately cuffed after the verdict, faces up to 25 years behind bars on the top count alone.
Other counts included sexual abuse and child endangerment.
Weberman sat stoically as the guilty verdicts were read out loud.
He was taken into custody, and his defense lawyer didn’t even bother asking for bail pending sentencing.
The now-18-year-old accuser said she was forced by her parents and school to attend counseling sessions with Weberman because she did not conform to the strict rules of dress and behavior of the Satmar Hasidic sect of Judaism.
Weberman, 54, was not a licensed counselor but he was still a long-time respected figure in Brooklyn’s insular Hasidic community.
The teen bravely withstood bullying from Weberman supporters who snapped her picture in court — later posted online — and glares from the defendant himself to take the stand against the revered Satmar leader.
She told jurors she hid the years of abuse so she wouldn’t be banished by her parents and the rest of the insular Brooklyn community.
“Satmar would have kicked me out, and if Satmar kicks you out, nobody accepts you,” she told a rapt jury — providing a rare glimpse into the secret culture of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidim. “No one in Williamsburg would accept me.”
Weberman began abusing her during counseling sessions when she was just 12.
“I thought they would never believe me, since he was supposedly a god in Williamsburg,” she testified.
When asked her status in her community at the time, 2007 to 2010, the teen replied, “Nothing. Just someone sitting there.”
When asked her status at the yeshiva, she said, “A piece of dirt.”
The teen said she feared Weberman because of his role in a powerful group that demands Jews in the community follow strict religious rules and dress codes enforced by Satmar thugs.
She cried for the first time during the trial when she graphically recounted the things Weberman made her do.
In one particularly chilling story, the teen recounted how Weberman told her how he had watched her playing as a child.
“He said he used to watch, and he said he always had a feeling I was going to go to him and he couldn’t wait,” she recalled.
Much of the teen’s testimony spoke to the powerless role she held in Hasidic Brooklyn.
She also testified that after she finally reported Weberman to police in 2010, she wrote a letter to the school saying she was “the girl they put through hell for three years” and, “They should do better for girls who wanted to speak up in the future.”
The teen said she was sent to Weberman for counseling after she talked to a boy and got into trouble at school for not following strict dress codes.
Because the Satmar sect provides no sex education for women until shortly before they marry, she said she didn’t understand what Weberman was doing at the time.