By Sharya Rosenberg (Failed Messiah blog)
November 16, 2013
There is a byzantine, serpentine world where black means white and white comes in all shades of gray, from charcoal to battleship, battered and torn, stained, dirty. A place where truth lies broken, torn, shattered, covered in mud, trampled on by hasidim who do not even recognize what it is their feet are stepping on.
It is a world with its own complete structure, its own terminology, its own dialect, its own unique morality. It is a place where conversations often start in the middle and end long before the participants stop talking. This is a place where outsiders are often lost without knowing it. Their eyes only see the surface, the shell, not the meat within. But the hasidim know the shell is only a husk, a covering, meant to be discarded. It’s the stuff inside that matters.
So when the Forward’s Paul Berger, an outsider who has no background with and no real knowledge of the hasidic community and little real knowledge or grasp of the Kellner case, writes what reads like an opinion piece (but is posted by the Forward as news) equating Sam Kellner with accused serial molester Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, one should take it with a large grain of salt – especially because both Berger and the Forward been unethical before this.
Berger writes: “My doubts are focused not on whether Lebovits sexually abused boys, but on whether Lebovits was denied a fair trial. The seeds of doubt have been planted during numerous off-the-record interviews with people in law enforcement and in the advocacy community, and with lawyers for and relatives of Lebovits. They are also based on secretly recorded conversations — some already in the public record, others never publicly released — that appear to undermine the case against Lebovits. The principal reason for such doubts lies with one man: Sam Kellner.”
What Berger does not clearly tell readers is that Lebovits’ attorneys used the charges against Sam Kellner along with a Rosario violation by the prosecution to try to have Lebovits’ conviction overturned.
The appeals court did overturn that conviction – on the Rosario violation alone which, while not at all central to the case against Lebovits, was enough for the appeals court to act while still noting that the evidence against Lebovits remains and is substantial.
That means that Lebovits did not have a fair trial according to the courts – a decision made more than one year ago.
It also means that the evidence against Lebovits is very strong.
Berger’s sudden thoughts about thet ‘possibility’ that the trial was unfair is therefore both meaningless and very late, and are based on his lack of understanding of the evidence against Lebovits and the case itself.
Berger's 'sudden thoughts' also provide him with a handy reason to smear Kellner.
But even at their worst, Berger’s claims about Kellner do not have anything to do with Lebovits’ trial or conviction. They are are worst unrelated bad behavior. But in what has become typical for Berger and the Forward, they fail to give readers enough information to know that.
Allow me to fill in what Berger and the Forward’s editors did not tell you.
What Kellner Allegedly Did:
• Kellner was charged with attempting to use 5 emissaries to extort money from Lebovits' son Meyer with a promise that, if paid, Kellner would get the complaining witnesses not to testify and would prevent a third victim from coming forward. The indictment also charges Kellner with threatening to bring a fourth victim.
• Kellner is charged with inducing only one witness – M.T. – to fabricate allegations against Lebovits.
• M.T. testified before two grand juries – but did not testify at trial.
The Evidence To Support These Charges Against Kellner Is Lacking:
• The claim that Kellner paid M.T. to lie turned out to be a lie. M.T. completely contradicted himself several times, apparently lied to police and to prosecutors, and fled the country.
• Prosecutors have evidence showing close supporters of Lebovits paid Torenheim to flee and were supporting him in Israel. It is that evidence that was the official reason for delaying the case against Kellner multiple times.
• Kellner was not accused of inducing the witness who did testify against Baruch Lebovits – S.R. – to lie.
• S.R. was videotaped by people sent by the Lebovits family. That motley crew of ex-hasidim and hasidim, drug addicts, former drug addicts and thieves allegedly plied a hapless S.R. with drugs and did everything they could do to get S.R to say on tape that Kellner told him to lie.
• But S.R. told them the exact opposite – Kellner never bribed him; Kellner told him to tell the truth.
Kellner’s Supposed Emissaries Asking Meyer Lebovits For Hush Money:
• All 5 of Kellner’s alleged emissaries are mentioned in the Kellner grand jury minutes, but none is named as indicted or un-indicted co-conspirators – a shocking thing because all are would be criminals if the charges against Kellner were really true.
• Given that they were not indicted, one would have to conclude that all 5 were cooperating with the government.
• But not one of those 5 testified before the grand jury.
• Aan at least 2 of those 5 emissaries reportedly had no idea they were even part of the case.
• Another emissary reportedly said he went to the D.A. and gave the D.A. information that supported Kellner and refuted the D.A.’s charges against Kellner. He was reportedly shocked hear he was mentioned in the indictment against Kellner but his evidence given in support of Kellner was not.
• All of these so-called emissaries are really people who came to Kellner and either offered him money to drop the charges against Lebovits or said they knew where Kellner could get money for medical treatment for his son.
• The only other person to testify against Kellner in the grand jury was Moshe Gabbai (Friedman), the owner of the Yiddish newspaper Der Yid, the Satmar Zalman faction’s top power broker, and the gate keeper to the Williamsburg Satmar Rebbe. He claimed Kellner also asked him to ask the Lebovits family for money, but no evidence for that was ever offered.
•Gabbai (Friedman)’s wife is Baruch Lebovits’ first cousin. The two families are close. Gabbai (Friedman) visited Lebovits several times when Lebovits was incarcerated.
So what we’re left with is a strong case against Lebovits – as even the appeals court noted – and a junk case against Kellner.
But what about Kellner’s other alleged bad behavior? What about the two very brief, redacted audio excerpts the Forward posted that seem to have Sam Kellner telling someone – a person the Forward claims is in the hasidic community – how to beat a molestation charge?
• Both of those excerpts can easily be understood to be Sam Kellner explaining to someone from outside the community how it would work if a community insider needed to beat a pedophilia rap. In fact, that explanation of the excerpts is more credible than the Forward’s claims about them.
• But we can’t judge which understanding is correct until we hear the entire tape in context. However the Forward refuses to post it. Its stated reasons for not posting it are good, but they don't explain why they refused to identify the speaker to Kellner's lawyers or provide them with more context. Kellner would already know the identity of someone to whom he allegedly spoke, so withholding the name makes no sense – unless the context the tape was made in is not the context the Forward claims it is. But the excerpts the Forward posted are too truncated for us to have any real idea what the context of that conversation was or what Kellner actually meant.
• (Indeed, given the conduct of Leah Lebovits – please see below – it is even possible the recording was made of Kellner speaking to someone else entirely and was later doctored by the Lebovits family or others related to his case to include the voice of people who later posed to the Forward as members of a molester's family.)
• On the other hand, Berger has repeatedly proved himself to be untrustworthy as has the Forward’s current editors and management.
Another Way To Understand The Audio Excerpts:
• Sam Kellner only reported accused pedophiles to the cops or the D.A. that rabbis gave him permission to report.
• That permission was only given Kellner on a case-by-case basis.
• If the accused pedophile Kellner was allegedly discussing on that tape was not one of those specific accused pedophiles he was allowed to report, if Kellner had no heter (permission) to report him and had been specifically told by his rabbis not to report him, Kellner would view helping that man escape prison as the right thing to do because that is what the legal system in his community has decided.
• Kellner operates in a world where paying monetary damages to resolve crimes is normal. You were drunk and ran over my son? Pay me reparations. Pay for my insurance copayments and for a nurse to sit with him and for physical therapy. You molested my son? Pay for his therapy and give us some money to use to help him get started in life. It is how things are done. Going to police is not how these crimes are usually resolved.
• Yet, working within that system, Sam Kellner brought multiple victims of several alleged pedophiles to police and the D.A. He was an NYPD confidential informant for years.
• For that, Kellner was mercilessly persecuted by the Munkatcher Rebbe and by others.
• Even though some of that persecution is arguably witness tampering, the D.A.’s office did nothing about it.
• The Munkatcher Rebbe who prersecuted Kellner is one of D.A. Charles J. Hynes’ biggest supporters.
• In fact, on the day of the primary election Hynes campaigned with a giant poster of himself and the Munkatcher Rebbe that said in Yiddish, "When a Jew is arrested, who do you go to [for help]? [Text written on the picture of the Munkatcher Rebbe:] To Jewish leaders who act on behalf of the Jewish community. [Text on Hynes' picture:] He helped us, he helps us, and he will continue to help us. Vote Charles Hynes…”
However you look at all this, one thing is clear – the Forward’s report lacks context, lacks the complete facts and misrepresents many of the facts it does report.
That is not surprising considering the Forward’s only sources for that report are the Lebovits family and Lebovits’ attorneys.
In fact, it appears that Berger did not see the prosecution’s case against Kellner and while Kellner’s attorney refused to comment on two extremely brief, redacted, audio excerpts unless he could hear the entire tape, that doesn’t appear to mean that he had nothing to say about the case against his client. But whatever Kellner’s attorney told Berger (I assume about about Simon Taub, about the police notes, about statements on another secretly recorded tape) is missing from Berger’s Forward report – meaning Berger intentionally reported only one side of the story.
And that brings us to ‘Sarah Levine,’ the woman who ran the Defend Kellner blog.
Months ago I threatened to out her after I determined she was not Kellner’s defender but was instead a supporter of Lebovits masquerading as a Kellner defender waiting to betray him in the end. (I have the emails to prove this.)
Berger was lucky enough to get her to give him a landline phone number which turned out to belong to Baruch Lebovits’ daughter-in-law Leah Lebovits.
• Lebovits’ own family lied to the world and lied to Forward and Berger – yet Berger and the Forward took information, like those audio tapes, from them uncritically, as if that never happened.
• What about Lebovits’ attorney Alan Dershowitz’s multiple ‘accidental’ plagiarisms and his ‘accidental’ mis-attribution of a quote to a sitting federal judge – a quote she never said or wrote, whose source does not cite them as her words, and which had already been rejected as garbage by an appeals court? Why is this man considered to be a trustworthy source when he is widely viewed inside and outside the legal profession as anything but?
• Why is Arthur Aidala, Lebovits’ other attorney and D.A. Hynes’and his disgraced Rackets Bureau chief Michael Vecchione’s close friend, considered a trusted source? Hynes himself is widely considered to be dishonest and possibly corrupt. Aidala is very close to him and played a key role in Hynes’ campaign.
• If you ask around Court Street you’ll find many people who will tell you off the record that Aidala, along with several other defense attorneys, Hynes and Vecchione allegedly fix cases. Is this a person you want to trust?
• If Sam Kellner’s alleged advice to the family of an alleged pedophile is supposedly proof that the entire case against Lebovits is garbage, then why isn’t Dershowitz’s, Aidala’s, Hynes’ and Vecchione’s long list of problems evidence that their claims against Kellner are garbage? And why isn’t the absolute dishonesty of the Lebovits family and its clear attempt to smear Kellner not strong evidence that Kellner is innocent?
In what passes for Paul Berger’s mind and the minds of the people who edit and publish him, an accused serial pedophile with multiple witnesses against him (along with many more who are past the statute of limitations) is the equivalent to an accused extortionist whose case has almost completely crumbled.
It’s like saying a once-convicted serial killer is no more evil than a guy who was once accused of extorting the serial killer’s family. It is insane and amoral.
The Forward Association board has a choice: remove Berger, Jane Eisner and the rest of his editors and start anew or eventually face the consequences of their shoddy work without that cleansing step having been taken first.
Be it from the family of Norman Lamm or from someone other wronged party, one day the bell will toll for the Forward. And when it does, all of those board members and the association will pay the price for the sins of Berger, Eisner and the rest of these unethical people.
The Audio Excerpts:
These are the two audio excerpts of Kellner the Forward posted. Each could be what the Forward claims – Kellner telling an accused haredi pedophile's family how he can beat the rap against him. But each could also be Kellner explaining to an outsider how haredi pedophiles in Brooklyn beat these types of charges. Scroll to the bottom of this page to listen to the audio excerpts.