By Scott Shifrel (NY Daily News)
March 3, 2010
In a halting voice, a 22-year-old man on Wednesday accused a Brooklyn rabbi of repeatedly molesting him when he was a teenager.
Supporters of Rabbi Baruch Lebovits packed the courtroom as the accuser took the witness stand to describe a series of assaults in a car between 2004 and 2005.
"Did he say anything?" Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory asked.
"He said something but I don't remember," murmured the young man, dressed in jeans, white shirt, tie and a yarmulke on shoulder-length black scraggly hair.
He spoke so softly and with such hesitation that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango repeatedly asked him to speak up.
"How did you feel?" Gregory asked of the alleged attacks.
"Very uncomfortable and confused," he said.
He sat less than 20 feet from Lebovits, 59, who was surrounded by supporters.
The rabbi, who owns a Borough Park travel agency, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of a criminal sexual act in the second-degree.
He's also awaiting trial on charges of molesting two others.
The man accusing him yesterday admitted he was in rehab for heroin and crack addiction that began after the incidents.
"It's a shame to talk about it and I have low self-esteem," he said, explaining to jurors why he didn't lodge charges until he'd left the Hasidic community.
Lebovits' lawyer hammered him in opening statements, calling him a con man with a history of drugs, crime and missed court dates.
"You're going to be sold a bill of goods," lawyer Arthur Aidala said, claiming the accuser intends to sue his client. "This is a con man that's going to take the stand.
"There's no video, there's no eyewitness, no DNA, there's no fingerprints... That evidence doesn't exist because all these acts Miss Gregory described didn't happen."