By Erica Demarest (DNA Info)
November 16, 2015
COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE - A West Rogers Park rabbi on Monday was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2006.
According to court testimony, Rabbi Aryeh "Larry" Dudovitz, 48, was a mentor to the teenage victim. In October 2006, Dudovitz went home with the boy and his family after celebrating the Jewish holiday Sukkot.
Dudovitz and the victim drank alcohol, prosecutors alleged, and the 15-year-old boy fell asleep. He was awakened by Dudovitz, who gave "the victim oral copulation while the victim was sleeping," court records show.
After the attack, Dudovitz admitted to several people - including rabbis and a mental-health counselor - that he sexually assaulted the boy while the victim slept, according to court testimony.
Dudovitz "absolutely held a position of trust and authority," Assistant State's Attorney Tracy Senica said during Dudovitz's bench trial Monday. "He took advantage of the entire family."
Cook County Judge Evelyn Clay found Dudovitz guilty after roughly two hours of testimony.
Clay ordered electronic monitoring for Dudovitz pending sentencing. She also said Dudovitz is required to surrender his passport. Post-trial motions, which could include sentencing, are slated for mid-December.
Dudovitz, of the 6400 block of North Albany Avenue, was charged in May 2013 with criminal sexual assault of a minor.
In 2006, the then-15-year-old victim and his family worshipped with Dudovitz at a small storefront synagogue, the Moshiach Center, in West Rogers Park, the victim told DNAinfo Chicago in 2013. The center - although not affiliated to the greater Chabad-Lubavitch organization - adheres to Chabad messianism, a belief that late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994, was the messiah, or savior, of the Jewish people.
The accuser looked up to Dudovitz, who he said mentored him before his Bar Mitzvah, and the two spent lots of time together.
"I didn't have a really close relationship with my father," he said, "and you know, [Dudovitz] was always there."
The victim, now 24, said he initially blamed himself for the incident, thinking: How could a rabbi do something wrong?
"I felt like I was at fault and did something inappropriate in front of my rabbi," he said. "I looked up to him like a father figure. He took advantage of that. I guess that was the hardest thing."
Though the victim initially reported the incident in 2006 and a state agency substantiated abuse allegations involving the boy and seven other victims in 2007, prosecutors didn't move forward with charges until 2013. Police at the time said witnesses didn't cooperate following the assault, but that the victim got the ball rolling when he reached out to detectives in 2013 to pursue prosecution.
After the trial Monday, the victim's older sister, who asked not to be named, said her family thought "with time, it would heal, but it was getting worse." She said her brother still had a lot of "anger and pain" before he pursued charges and thought a conviction could start to provide closure.