by Hella Winston (The Jewish Week)
January 14, 2010
The Brooklyn District Attorney's office expressed disappointment Thursday after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled not to extradite alleged child molester Abraham Mondrowitz.
"We are disappointed by the decision," said Jerry Schmetterer, director of public information for the DA's office, which had been seeking Mondrowitz's extradition. "We are working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Israel Ministry of Justice to see what remedies are available."
Asked to elaborate, Schmetterer said the remedies "would possibly be in the area of further appeals."
The unanimous decision of the three-judge panel is a setback to survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of rabbis and others in Brooklyn's Orthodox community who had been pressing for Mondrowitz's extradition.
In their ruling the Israeli justices seemed to take a swipe at nameless American and Israeli authorities for waiting too long to amend the extradition treaty so that it would apply to someone like Mondrowitz, who was facing at least a year in jail. (The treaty was amended in 2007, more than 20 years after the molestations of which Mondrowitz is accused allegedly took place in Brooklyn.)
The justices also questioned why U.S. officials had not asked for the trial to take place in Israel.
The ruling seems to leave open the possibility that Mondrowitz could be tried in Israel. According to a lawyer for the advocacy group Survivors for Justice, who was in the courtroom when the ruling was handed down, a state attorney in Israel, Marlene Mazal, was concerned about whether the alleged victims of Mondrowitz would be able to come to Israel to testify if there were a trial.
The Supreme Court's ruling overturned a lower-court decision that Mondrowitz should be extradited to the U.S. for trial. According to the Survivors for Justice lawyer, Adrian Daniels of the Israeli law firm Yigal Arnon, Justice Ayala Procaccia reasoned that, even if the alleged crimes had not exceeded the statute of limitations, Mondrowitz should not be extradited as a matter of public policy because the length of time that has passed since the crimes were allegedly committed would make a fair trial impossible.
Apparently aware that an arrest was imminent, Mondrowitz, who reportedly passed himself off as a psychologist with allegedly bogus credentials while living in Brooklyn, fled to Israel in 1985.
At the time, the extradition treaty between Israel and the U.S. did not cover charges of sodomy, which was among the crimes for which he was indicted. The first extradition request regarding Mondrowitz came in 1985, but the appeal was denied. A new request was filed after the treaty was amended in 2007. Thursday's decision was on Mondrowitz's appeal of that request.
Prior to Mondrowitz's arrest in Israel in connection with the extradition request, Israeli law enforcement, according to court documents, found evidence in his home of his use of child pornography, including on the Internet, as well as evidence that he was engaged in a business to sell phony college diplomas and other credentials. It is unclear whether Israeli law enforcement intends to pursue his arrest for those activities.
"Our attorneys in Israel have given us a summary of the Supreme Court's decision but we have not yet read the decision in its entirety," Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice told The Jewish Week. "The little we know thus far raises troubling questions. At the very least, the authorities in Israel should be pursuing criminal charges against Mondrowitz for recent crimes that both they and the U.S. authorities have clear and convincing evidence of.
"We are working with counsel to determine what can be done to help bring Mondrowitz to the U.S. to face trial for the terrible crimes for which he stands accused. We are saddened that Mondrowitz's victims have been deprived of this important step towards closure and will not rest until we have exhausted every possible legal means to bring this matter to the close it deserves."