Yosef Kolko, former Lakewood yeshiva counselor, seeks to nullify plea in molestation case

By Kathleen Hopkins (Asbury Park Press)
September 6, 2013

The lawyer representing a former yeshiva camp counselor in a Lakewood sexual abuse case wants to have his client's guilty plea nullified, claiming the defendant was pressured by the community into admitting guilt in the case.

Alan L. Zegas, a Chatham attorney representing Yosef Kolko, filed a motion to withdraw his client's guilty plea.

Kolko, 39, of Geffen Drive in Lakewood, had been scheduled to be sentenced in the child sex-abuse case on Wednesday, but Zegas’ motion prompted its postponement.

When reached by telephone and asked for the reasons why Kolko should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, Zegas responded, “He was significantly pressured to pleaded (guilty). There are other reasons as well that interfered with his ability to make a voluntary, willing decision.

“Even when the plea was taken, there was reference to him feeling pressure from the community,” Zegas said of his client.

When specifically asked from whom the pressure came, Zegas responded, “From many sources. That will be explained in the brief.”

Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson gave Zegas until Sept. 30 to file a brief outlining the reasons why he should consider allowing the guilty plea to be withdrawn.

Hodgson scheduled a hearing on the motion for Oct. 17. If Zegas doesn’t convince the judge to allow his client to withdraw his guilty plea, Hodgson will proceed to sentence Kolko that day, according to court officials.

The defendant could face up to 40 years in prison, although Hodgson, when accepting Kolko’s guilty plea, told him he would consider capping any prison term at 15 years.

Kolko pleaded guilty May 13 to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, a boy who was 11 and 12 years old when the abuse occurred in 2008 and 2009.

Kolko was the boy’s camp counselor at Yachad, a summer camp that is run by the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood. He also was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood.

Kolko admitted performing various acts of molestation on the child only after Senior Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro told the judge that two more potential victims of Kolko’s had come forward to authorities. Pierro said the state would not bring further charges against Kolko related to the other victims, in exchange for his guilty plea.

Zegas said some of the factors a judge would consider in deciding whether a guilty plea can be withdrawn are whether the plea agreement was entered into voluntarily and knowingly and whether the defendant had a full understanding of the consequences of his plea.

Zegas replaced Michael F. Bachner, who was Kolko’s attorney during the trial and guilty plea.