By Shmarya Rosenberg (FailedMessiah.com)
January 24, 2013
A Brooklyn judge has rejected Yeshiva & Mesivta Torah Temimah Inc's attempt to settle a civil lawsuit against it brought by a boy who was allegedly sexually abused by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a serial child sexual abuser who was – and may still be – one of Torah Temimah’s teachers.
Supreme Court Justice Jack Battaglia denied Torah Temimah’s motion to enforce a confidential settlement agreement signed by the parents of the alleged victim on February 15, 2011, Thomson Reuters reports.
The parent’s changed their minds shortly after signing the agreement, claiming they signed it under duress after facing extreme pressure from the yeshiva. The parents say that among other forms of pressure, a Torah Temimah rabbi told them that they would "bankrupt" the yeshiva and destroy it just the way "the Nazis (have) destroyed" the "yeshiva in Europe," the judge’s ruling noted.
"The court cannot say on the record presented that the refusal of (plaintiff)'s parents to proceed with the settlement in accordance with the Feb. 15, 2011, settlement agreement is unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious," Battaglia wrote in a ruling Wednesday.
The lawsuit is one of several filed by alleged victims and their parents against Torah Temimah, the ruling reportedly notes.
The case was brought in 2006 by a boy who allegedly was abused by Rabbi “Yehuda” Joel Kolko during the 2003-2004 school year when Kolko was his first grade teacher.
The lawsuit accuses Torah Temimah of negligence in the hiring, supervising and retaining of Kolko – who had long track record of alleged child sexual abuse that Torah Temimah allegedly ignored – along with breach of fiduciary duty.
Torah Temimah’s lawyers argued that the parents had signed a valid agreement and that there was no duress. They asked the judge to order an infant compromise which would allow the judge to approve a settlement the parents signed but then walked away from. An "infant" if defined by law as a person under the age of eighteen. In New York State, an infant’s lawsuit can only be settled with a judge’s approval, even if the child’s parents agree to the settlement. An infant compromise is a judicial hearing at which the judge reviews the proposed settlement and agrees or disagrees with it. He can order or suggest modifications in agreements he doesn’t like, or he can simply reject them.
Battaglia rejected Torah Temimah’s request, ruling that the settlement "might well be found to be in the infant plaintiff's best interests, but that is not the standard for a settlement contrary to the judgment of the infant plaintiff's parent and counsel," meaning that viewing the settlement as being in the best interest of the child is notenough to overrule the wishes of the child’s parents and attorney.
Kolko taught a first-grade at Torah Temimah. He was indicted in 2007 by the Brooklyn DA on child sexual abuse charges. The victims were former students of Kolko’s who were still young minors.
In 2008, Kolko was offered a plea deal by the Brooklyn DA that allowed him to plead guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The charges were misdemeanors, meaning Kolko did not have to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to three years' probation.
The father of one of the victims told the Jewish Week after the plea deal was approved that he had been manipulated by prosecutors and tricked into agreeing with it.
The DA claimed the sweetheart plea deal was necessary because the victims’ parents had decided not to allow their sons to testify in court.
That parent disputed the DA’s claim and said that his son was willing and able to testify.
Kolko was rearrested in 2010 after that boy accused him of violating an order of protection that barred Kolko from interacting with the child by glaring at the boy and his father as they walked on a Brooklyn street. Kolko was acquitted.
Thomson Reuters was unable to determine if Kolko is still employed by Torah Temimah.