By Pervaiz Shallwani (Wall Street Journal)
January 22, 2013
A prominent ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor was sentenced to 103 years in prison in the sexual abuse of a teenage girl in the insular Brooklyn community.
Nechemya Weberman, 54 years old, was found guilty in December on 59 counts of sexual abuse and child endangerment, the most serious that he sexually abused the young woman for three years beginning when she was 12.
The victim, now 18, spoke for five minutes Tuesday, at times crying as she read from a prepared statement.
“I clearly remember how I would look in the mirror,” she said. “I saw a girl who didn’t want to live in her own skin, a girl whose innocence was shattered, a girl who couldn’t sleep at night because of the gruesome invasion that had been done to her body,” she told the judge.
She described herself as “a sad girl who wanted to live a normal life, but instead was being victimized by a 50-year-old man who forced her to perform sickening acts again and again.”
“I saw a girl who had no reason to live,” she said. “I would cry until my tears ran dry.”
She hoped that her coming forward “sets a precedent” and would give strength to other victims in the community.
Following the two-week trial that put a sharp focus on the Satmar Hasidic community, Weberman faced up to 117 years in prison.
Weberman who maintains his innocence did not address the judge before being sentenced, simply saying “no thanks,” when given the opportunity.
He looked towards his supporters, smiled and nodded as he was led away on handcuffs.
His attorneys plan to appeal the verdict and sentence.
There was no physical evidence presented at the trial, but both the victim and Weberman took the stand. Prosecutors portrayed Weberman as an unlicensed counselor who used his position in the community to gain access to young women deemed problems for violating the modesty rules of the tight-knit community.
The victim testified that she was first taken to see Weberman in 2007 after she was caught text messaging a boy, wearing skirts that aren’t long enough and otherwise being singled out at her school. She accused Weberman by name in 2011, saying he abused her at every single session.
Weberman’s attorneys, though, spent four days cross-examining the victim in an attempt to discredit her testimony. On the stand, Weberman said he “never ever” abused her.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes — who has said prosecuting ultra-Orthodox Jewish cases can be more difficult than organized crime cases – said after the verdict that there were other victims of Weberman who had either opted not to press charges or who had passed the statute of limitations.