By Michael Orbach (The Jewish Star)
March 8, 2010
A Brooklyn jury has convicted Boruch Mordechai Lebovits, a Borough Park travel agent, on eight of ten charges of sexually abusing a young boy.
"Boruch Hashem," Thank G-d, said the father of the victim who brought the case. "Justice is served."
Lebovits was found guilty in Kings County Criminal Court of third degree sexual misconduct in eight instances that spanned ten months in 2004. The twelve-member jury found Lebovits not guilty on two charges within that year, allegedly occurring in the months of July and August. For each individual charge Lebovits could spend between 1 and 4 years in prison, for a maximum term of 32 years.
Arthur Aidala, Lebovits's lawyer, asked that Lebovits remain free on bond pending sentencing. Judge Patricia DiMango denied his request and Lebovits was handcuffed and led from the courtroom.
The judge explained that while crimes of a sexual nature are not usually committed by those with "traditional criminal records," and that while Lebovits, until now, had appeared regularly in court, there was a "substantial flight risk." An option of raising the bail was similarly denied.
"Given his family's substantial assets," DiMango explained, "any bail is nominal."
The trial took a surprising turn earlier Monday when a defense witness was himself accused of being a sexual abuser.
Yissocher Berel Ashkenazi, a rebbe who once taught the plaintiff was testifying that the plaintiff was indeed launching the suit to make money from Lebovits, when Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory asked Ashkenazi if he knew a particular boy in Brooklyn.
Yes, he said.
"Isn't it true," the prosecutor continued, that Ashkenazi had once touched his knee to the boy's genitals?
Flustered, Ashkenazi denied that that was true.
Then Gregory named another boy and asked the witness if, he, "back in 1998, on multiple occasions, sexually molested him when he was 13 years old?"
Ashkenazi, the witness, is a rebbe in a chassidishe yeshiva and was once the plaintiff's rebbe. He protested to the assistant district attorney, "I am a holy person" and said that he would swear that he had never done anything with a boy, leading the judge to remind him that he was already under oath.
Defense attorney Aidala found himself defending not only his client, Lebovits, who is accused of a criminal sexual act in the second degree, but also his own witness.
"As far as I know, it's a myth," Aidala said of the ADA's courtroom bombshell. "That's the first time I heard about it and the first time he heard about it. "
Sentencing will take place on March 29, erev Pesach. The judge apologized to the family of the victim for the inconvenient scheduling. It is the first of three cases being brought against Lebovits, who is a brother of a Chassidic rebbe.
"I feel bad for my son," the victim's mother said, though she explained that she was "overjoyed" by the verdict that would see her eldest son's abuser punished for his crimes.
"I think it's the first time in 2-and-a-half years that I have finally seen justice served. My whole entire family is going to be overjoyed...I have no clue how I'm going to handle it."