By Oren Yaniv (NY Daily News)
January 6, 2012
They convicted him because of the facts, not because of his religion.
A juror in the sexual abuse case pitting a teen accuser against Hasidic leader Nechemya Weberman said he broke the panel’s silence to refute the notion the jury returned a guity verdict out of anti-Semitic bias.
"It wasn't religion, it wasn't their background, it wasn't revenge," said the 42-year-old man, who asked not to be identified. "It was a young girl and an old man alone in a room."
The juror offered the first public account of the jury's thinking during deliberations in the high-profile trial, which ended Dec. 10 with a guilty verdict to all 59 counts.
Weberman, 54, was convicted of molesting the now 18-year-old for three years starting when she was 12, forcing her to perform oral sex and reenact porn scenes. She started to see the unlicensed therapist after running afoul of the insular sect's stringent modesty rules.
Weberman’s lawyer George Farkas had claimed after the conviction that Hasidic Jews do not have “the same shot with a jury as anyone else."
But the juror said he had no preconceptions about Weberman's community, adding the panel didn't view him as "a monster."
"We realized we couldn't make a flippant decision and ruin a man's life," the juror recalled. "It was, 'Oh boy, we have a serious job.'"
The juror said the panel accepted the victim's "emotional" testimony, which stretched over four days, but didn't want to rely solely on her words.
"We needed something else," he said.
“Something else” came in the form of social worker Sara Fried, who testified she diagnosed the girl with post traumatic stress disorder over the years of molestation.
"That's what clinched it," the juror said during an hour-long interview at a Brooklyn diner last week. "We took the vote and everyone was unanimous."
He also noted there were multiple locks in Weberman's home, that he admitted to driving the girl upstate alone and that he housed other runaway teens.
"It raises a lot of red flags," he said.
The panel of 12 jurors — a racially diverse group of different ages, including a college student and a retiree — weighed Weberman's fate for about five hours. After, jurors were ushered out of a side exit, escaping the media glare.
Weberman, who's facing a maximum of 117 years, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, though it will likely be later this month.