By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
November 2, 2014
Baruch Lebovits waltzed out of jail (on 10/3/14) after serving only three months following sentencing on his plea bargain for eight felony counts of oral sex with a child (PL130.40). A number of us tried to get an explanation for this dismal outcome, but the official line from the Brooklyn DA was, “no comment.”
Hella Winston of the Jewish Week dug deeper and reported that Judge Mark Dwyer,
Despite being made aware that he had misunderstood correction law in a way that resulted in a notorious chasidic child molester receiving less jail time than he apparently intended – did not revisit the sentence of Baruch Lebovits.
According to the Jewish Week, the office of Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson, despite its knowledge of the judge’s error in advance of sentencing, did nothing to prevent this drastically and erroneously reduced prison sentence aside from writing a CYA letter to the court.
When the article came out on Monday (10/6/14), Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson lashed out at subordinates. He was probably particularly irritated by the title of the article, The Luckiest Pedophile in New York.* The title was based on the reaction of Niall MacGiollabhui, a lawyer for an alleged victim of Lebovits, who said, “Lebovits seems somehow to once again be the luckiest pedophile in New York.”
Thompson put on his happy face when he was interviewed that evening on the popular radio show, The Ride Home with Pat Kiernan and Rita Cosby (New Talk Radio 77 WABC). He used the show to talk about a Hate Crimes Unit he created some time earlier. The host, then raised the Jewish Week article.
Pat Kiernan: I found this story today in the Jewish Week called “The Luckiest Pedophile in New York” about Baruch Lebovits. This is a man as you know, because it was a big issue during the campaign, that has 8 felony counts of sexual abuse of children against him. Originally he was going to get up to 32 years. Then because of some mistakes under a former administration and then some mishandling of the courts it seems like he’s out now after less than two years. It doesn’t seem like justice. Is this case over? Is there anything else you can do?
Ken Thompson: When I took office in January I inherited the Lebovits case. And we looked at that case very closely. And the judge who handled it recommended the sentence that he got. We thought it was in the interests of, after talking to the victim in the case, that it was in the best interests in light of all the circumstances…
Pat Kiernan: Just to make it clear what you are saying, because this was not clear in the story, you are saying you didn’t push the case further or challenge it in the court at the time, at the request of the victim’s family?
Ken Thompson: [rising emphasis and defensive annoyance]. I am not saying that that’s the only reason. I am saying that we took the victim’s desires into account. We also took what the judge said into account, as well.
Thompson didn’t “inherit.” the case. He asked to take it over while he was still DA-elect and then-Brooklyn DA, Charles J Hynes, acceded. It was bungled and undermined under Hynes by three ADAs on the case and the related Kellner case, Joseph Alexis, Miss Gregory and Nicholas Batsides. Alexis was promoted to head a zone and Gregory remains head of Crimes Against Children. Naturally they are blaming Michael Vecchione who is conveniently gone. But if he coerced them into acting improperly they should at least have filed ethics charges against him, or better yet, criminal charges.
But Thompson seems to care so little about this miscarriage of justice that he didn’t even fight for the longest possible sentence under the plea bargain.
Thompson likes talking about protecting everyone in Brooklyn. But he seems to have decided not to pursue witness intimidation and bribery that inhibits ultra orthodox sex abuse victims from pressing charges. A case can be made that Thompson discriminates against molested orthodox children by not granting them enough prosecutorial vigor.
Thompson seems to have lost interest in his DA job and is, like Hynes before him, already setting his sights on higher office. Hence his planned trip to Israel in February while he neglects his Jewish children at home.
Unfortunately for him, the New Yorker is in the final stages of a fact checking an article about the miscarriage of justice enacted under Hynes and left unpunished by Thompson. The article by Rachel Aviv will detail how DA Hynes brought unjustified extortion charges against Sam Kellner to salvage Baruch Lebovits. It will reveal a sordid tangle of prosecutorial and legal misconduct. Expect more pious mouthing off by Thompson but no explanation for why the culpable staff in his office have not suffered any career consequences. Alan Dershowitz’s reputation will also take a beating.
*The Jewish Week’s editors subsequently changed the title to: “Questions over Child Molester’s Early Release: Baruch Lebovits is sprung after just three months. Was sentencing law misapplied?”