Bribery and extortion case dropped against Brooklyn man accused of blackmailing relatives of an alleged molester
By Oren Yaniv (NY Daily News)
March 7, 2014
A tortured bribery and extortion case in Brooklyn's Jewish community is over — at least for now.
A judge agreed Friday to dismiss all charges against Samuel Kellner, who was accused of trying to blackmail relatives of an alleged molester. But the decision came without prejudice, meaning a new prosecution is theoretically possible.
“Finally this ordeal is over,” Kellner, 52, said upon leaving Brooklyn Supreme Court.
“I hope this will be a lesson to everyone that, in the end, justice is going to prevail.”
Prosecutor Kevin O'Donnell said that his recent review concluded that one witness against Kellner “gave widely inconsistent statements” and the other “is no longer a credible witness” either.
But like everything in this twisted and convoluted saga that dragged on for three years amid allegations of corruption and political favoritism - the ending was not straightforward.
Lawyers for Baruch Lebovits, the alleged abuser that Kellner brought witnesses against and was accused of extorting, asked to intervene and met with the Justice Guy Mangano, prosecutors and Kellner’s lawyers for about an hour.
After they emerged, the head of Lebovits’ pricy defense team, famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, declared: “This case isn't over.”
He claimed a recording from another investigation circa 2010, which he only received this week, proves that Kellner was involved in an extortion plot. He added that prosecutors admitted they never translated that tape from Yiddish and that he'll cite it when asking for a special prosecutor to go after Kellner.
“It's crap, okay?” retorted Michael Dowd, one of Kellner’s lawyers, accusing the Lebovits side of witness tampering and former prosecutors of corruption for bringing the indictment in the first place.
The two sides and some spectators nearly came to blows after getting into heated arguments in the hallway after the hearing was over.
Dershowitz asserted the dismissal was the result of a campaign promise by new District Attorney Kenneth Thompson who called the Kellner case “botched” during the heated DA race last fall.
O’Donnell slammed that claim as “absolutely baseless” and called the request for Thompson’s recusal “an act of desperation.”
Lebovits, who was convicted of abusing a boy before an appellate panel overturned that in 2012, is awaiting a retrial.
While prosecutors insist they’ll soon take it to trial, the Kellner prosecution has complicated that case.
As he left court, Kellner thanked God, but decried having been persecuted by the family of an alleged pedophile he helped law enforcement expose.
“It's mindboggling,” he said.