The New Yorker Reports On The Sam Kellner Extortion Case

By Shmarya Rosenberg (Failed Messiah blog)
November 3, 2014

The New Yorker has a profile of the trumped up extortion case against hasidic abuse whistleblower Sam Kellner.

There's nothing much new in it, except for some of this:

 …The Lebovits family hired a Hasidic private investigator named Joe Levin, who runs a company called T.O.T. Consulting—the letters standing for the Yiddish phrase tuchis afn tish, or “put your ass on the table.” Levin said that at his first meeting with Chaim, at the Plaza Hotel, he was instructed to find anything that might cast Kellner in a negative light. (He said that he was so troubled by what he observed that he felt justified in telling me about his work for the family.)

Beginning in the fall of 2010, Levin bugged Kellner’s van, and he and his employees followed him. He listened to hours of Kellner’s conversations each week. But he came up with little related to the case. “It was devastating,” Levin told me. “I really went nowhere.”

After he had been working on the case for a few months, he said, he was asked to drive to the home of a friend of Hynes, where a birthday party was being held. Levin said, “It was a very fancy house, and people just came in and out.” Meyer Lebovits [a son of notorious hasidic child molester Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, who Kellner helped to convict] attended the party briefly, he said, and was joined by two machers, or “big shots,” who mediate between secular political figures and the community. Levin stayed within three hundred feet of the house, because he had been asked to record the machers’ conversations. It is not uncommon for Hasidic power brokers to record conversations to use as leverage. (Meyer denied going to the party.)

After the party, Levin said, the relationship between the Lebovits sons and the district attorney’s office immediately became much warmer. He was surprised by how frequently the Lebovits family received updates about the investigations. When he overheard phone conversations, “It did not sound like law enforcement talking to a criminal’s family. It sounded like two good friends.” Levin said that he can remember few cases where the pressure on him was higher. The message he got from the Lebovits sons was “Now we have the O.K., so anything you bring to us, we are going to be able to do something with it. ”…

That Joe Levin worked for Lebovits and that he got recordings of Kellner isn't news. (Note the spelling of Levin in that link is Levine. Why? Joe, who was raised in Israel, vacillated between spellings for awhile before settling on Levin.)

What is news is that Levin is now admiting he bugged Kellner's van. That it was very likely someone had bugged Kellner's van was reported by in April of this year.

It is likely that those illegal recordings were edited, spliced together to try to make Kellner appear guilty of something he wasn't guilty of, and turned into the recording the Forward and its ever-inept and unethical reporter, Paul Berger, relied on to smear Kellner. (And also here.)

If Kellner sues, he should be able get enough information from discovery to prove this. The remaining question – besides how much money the Forward will have to pay Kellner – is what will happen to Berger and the editors and publisher who signed off on Berger's smear.

And then there's the little matter of the new Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson's failure to investigate the alleged witness tampering by the Lebovits family and the illegal bugging of Sam Keller:

…When the new district attorney, Ken Thompson, took office, last January, MacGiollabhuí warned two prosecutors in an e-mail, “At the moment, your office is being openly mocked in his community.”

Eric Gonzalez, the counsel to Thompson, told me that the new administration was skeptical of the Kellner indictment. Four prosecutors had asked to be removed from the case, because they didn’t believe in it. He said that it seemed as if “the decision had been made to prosecute Kellner, and they were going to go forward with that prosecution whether it was the right thing or the wrong thing to do. And here you had multiple senior people saying it was the wrong thing to do.”

A new prosecutor, Kevin O’Donnell, conducted a review of the case in early 2014 and determined that Meyer Lebovits was not credible and the recording of him talking to Kellner was “ambiguous at best.” “There are motives of certain witnesses that go beyond this case,” he said at a hearing in March. He told the judge that Joshua’s statements were “wildly inconsistent” and supported by “no credible evidence.” In one interview, Joshua said that Lebovits might have molested him, but he wasn’t sure. “Could be a different Lebovits,” he offered. A week later, he said that he’d never even seen Lebovits. Joshua had recently moved to Israel, and he acknowledged that whenever he wanted to return to the United States he requested permission from a man named Zalman Ashkenazi, who paid his airfare. Records obtained by the prosecution show that Ashkenazi, who is the brother of the defense witness at Aron’s trial, made monthly payments to Joshua’s father. (Ashkenazi denied that Joshua needed his permission to travel.)

When O’Donnell signalled that he would submit a motion to dismiss the case against Kellner, MacGiollabhuí said that he wanted to go to trial. He didn’t understand how a case had been brought against Kellner, and he wanted to put people on the witness stand. “The people in my client’s community are entitled to it,” he told the judge. “They are entitled to know why it is that victims of pedophiles in my client’s community don’t get the justice that victims in other communities get.”

MacGiollabhuí consented to have the case dismissed only after O’Donnell told him, last March, that the district attorney’s office would undertake an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kellner’s indictment. But an investigation was never announced. Months later, MacGiollabhuí wrote to the prosecutor, “I now believe that I was lied to.” (A spokeswoman from the D.A.’s office said that an investigation was never promised.) Gonzalez would not acknowledge whether or not there was an ongoing investigation, but he did say that “this district attorney is very concerned about the amount of money and effort used to prevent the Baruch Lebovits case from seeing the courtroom.” He said that Aron’s civil settlement seemed to be a “very calculated way of buying the victim off.”…

Thompson has become close to Satmar power brokers since taking office, and infamously gave the Satmar hasid who tried to blind anti-child-sex-abuse activist Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg with bleach a no-prison sweetheart plea deal. His prosecutors also privately ridiculed Rosenberg and claimed that since Nuchem wasn't permanently injured, the plea dea was justified. Nuchem still has pain and vision problems, and must use special eye drops even now, so long after the attack. None of this bothered Thompson or his prosecutors.

The New Yorker article also briefly mentions Hella Winston, who broke most of the stories the New Yorker is now, months and years later, writing about. And it even mentions

In less religious circles, the policies of the Hynes administration came under scrutiny. The links between the Kellner and Lebovits cases were analyzed by two blogs, Failed Messiah and Frum Follies, which are written by ultra-Orthodox Jews who became disillusioned, and by Hella Winston, a contributing editor at Jewish Week, who for the past several years has investigated the community’s approach to sex abuse.

The man behind Frum Follies was never really haredi or ultra-Orthodox, and he hasn't been in the Orthodox community for decades.

More important than that, almost everything the New Yorker reported was first reported by Hella Winston,, and by Michael Powell in the New York Times. The New Yorker's failure to make that clear is sad. (But unlike other big media outlets that borrow heavily from others, at least it mentioned some of our names.)