March 7, 2014
Prosecutors say they’ll move to drop all charges against a Brooklyn man in a controversial extortion case involving a Hasidic Jewish religious leader.
District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said prosecutors don’t think they could prove the charges against sex abuse whistleblower Samuel Kellner at trial.
As WCBS 880?s Irene Cornell reported, Kellner was a whistleblower in several sex abuse cases in the ultra Orthodox Jewish community. He had reported that his son and others were sexually abused by Baruch Lebovits, a prominent Hasidic cantor.
It led to a high-profile conviction for the then District Attorney Charles Hynes.
Thompson has moved to dismiss pending charges in a case that he claims was botched by his predecessor.
Kellner’s lawyer says the move is long overdue.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind also praised Thompson’s decision to drop the case against Kellner.
“This case was a miscarriage of justice. This case involved former DA Hynes playing politics with someone’s life,” he said. “It wasn’t a close call, it was unequivocal, it was clear that Sam Kellner, the charges against him were bogus.”
Kellner was charged in 2011 with extorting Baruch Lebovits.
The Brooklyn cantor was convicted in 2010 of abusing a boy whom Kellner had referred to prosecutors.
Lebovits got his conviction overturned on appeal in 2012 by accusing the whistleblower of bribing witnesses to testify against him.
The new DA said those witnesses have backtracked on their stories and he can’t prove the extortion and bribery case against Kellner, so those charges are being dropped.
“When Hynes was still the DA a few months ago, two of his own ADAs recommended dropping the charges and Hynes and his people refused to do that. The question is why. Why? It should be about justice, not about going after somebody for political motives,” Hikind said.
Lebovits’s family opposes the plans to dismiss the extortion case.
During the 2013 election, Thompson called the case botched while his predecessor stood behind the prosecution.