By Christopher Peak (New Haven Independent)
July 27, 2017
A one-to-three-inch scar, and the way he pulled his pants over his shoes, helped seal Rabbi Daniel Greer’s fate with police investigating whether he repeatedly sexually assaulted yeshiva students over a period of years.
That point emerged in an arrest warrant affidavit made public Thursday, one day after the prominent Edgewood rabbi turned himself in to police on charges of second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. Greer, who is 77 years old, is free on a $100,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 11, after his lawyer, prominent criminal defense attorney Willie Dow, returns from vacation. In an interview, Dow denied the charges on Greer’s behalf. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Stacey Miranda is handling the case for the government.
The arrest warrant affidavit, written by lead police investigator Detective Kristine Cuddy, details the information she gathered from an alleged victim of the rabbi as well as information she relied on to buttress the allegations.
Her investigation stemmed from a complaint police received last August from a former student at the yeshiva Greer started in the Edgewood neighborhood. Though the affidavit doesn’t name the student, a lawyer for the victim, Eliyahu Mirlis, confirmed that he is the one who came forward to police. Mirlis also brought a federal civil lawsuit against Greer that wrapped up in May, when Greer lost a $20 million verdict in federal court. That trial, which was decided on a lower standard of a “preponderance of the evidence,” or who’s case was more likely, included testimony about years-long abuse of at least one other victim at the school. Greer invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to decline responding to the allegations. (The rabbi is seeking a new trial.)
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, during an interview at police headquarters on Aug. 25, 2016, Detectives Cuddy and Shayna Kendall sought to shore up details about Mirlis’s alleged abuse, which he said had occurred in the “early to middle 2000s.” The detectives questioned him about dates and locations, as well as a description of Greer’s naked body.
Mirlis, now 29 years old, told the officers that the rabbi had orange pubic hair (that might have changed with age), a circumcised penis, no tattoos, a hairy back and chest, a mole on his upper back and a scar between one and four inches long between his thigh and his testicle. Mirlis said the scar could be seen only if Greer was naked. He couldn’t remember which leg the scar was on.
Mirlis also stated that, at the time he was allegedly assaulted, Greer had an unusual habit of putting his shoes on before his pants when redressing — a fact that wasn’t disclosed in the civil trial.
To verify, Cuddy applied for a warrant last month to view Greer’s naked body. Judge Brian Fischer approved it. On June 20, Sgt. David Zannelli and three detectives met Greer at his lawyer’s offices on Orange Street. In a private room, two detectives videotaped and photographed Greer with and without his clothes on. (Cuddy wasn’t present.) Greer’s lawyer said the rabbi would give no statement to the cops.
After reviewing the images on a DVD, Cuddy wrote, they “corroborated” all of Mirlis’s statements. In the affidavit, she wrote, “The images clearly showed that Greer did in fact have a lot of pubic hair, orange in color, an extremely hairy chest, white in color, an extremely hairy back, black in color. Also, small mole on the upper right side of his back, a circumcised penis and a scar on Greer’s body one to three inches in length between the right thigh and right testicle.”
At the federal civil trial, defense attorneys sought to establish that most students at the tight-knit yeshiva would have known Greer had a hernia surgery and thus a scar.
The police video also supported, but did not confirm, Mirlis’s description of how Greer dressed, according to Cuddy’s affidavit. “I also noted while watching the video of Greer undressing that he removed his pants while wearing his shoes,” Cuddy wrote. “The victim had stated that Greer would put his pants on while wearing his shoes, although today he did the opposite, it is an odd behavior.”
Cuddy, a 14-year veteran of the force in the Special Victims Unit, noted that law enforcement’s case was also supported by the rest of Mirlis’s detailed, sometimes lurid, testimony and a videotaped deposition from the civil trial by a separate former student who became the yeshiva’s principal of his own sexual relations with Greer. That student, Aviad Hack, spoke of years worth of alleged sexual abuse. (Click here for a story detailing that.)
In his interview with law enforcement last year, Mirlis described his alleged abuse in graphic detail that wasn’t brought up at trial. Here’s how the arrest warrant affidavit reports the allegations:
Mirlis said that the abuse began during his sophomore year, when he was about 14 years old. Greer told him to meet on the first floor of 777 Elm St., one of the dormitories next to the yeshiva. The rabbi allegedly served him alcohol (usually a bloody mary, single-malt scotch or wine) and sat him down on a couch, engaged in an emotional conversation, then leaned in and kissed him on the mouth. Mirlis “freaked out,” he told the cops, and left.
A week or two later, Greer told him to come to the same spot. Again, he served him alcohol and sat him down on the couch, Mirlis claimed. Greer then allegedly told Mirlis to stand, undid the boy’s belt, pulled his pants down to his ankles and had oral sex.
Mirlis told the detectives that the sexual assaults became a “regular thing” after that. On a weekly basis, usually on a weekday evening or a Sunday afternoon, he was sexually assaulted at the dorms and at rental properties on Norton Street, Edgewood Avenue, Maple Street and Park Street, Mirlis stated in the interview.
Mirlis said his grades suffered when he refused to meet with Greer. (At the civil trial, the defense attorneys pointed out that his final report cards had all A’s and B’s.) Mirlis also said that Greer, who then acted as the school’s dean, would yell at him in the yeshiva’s hallways and threaten him with expulsion. From the teenager’s perspective, the sexual abuse seemed like “a game” to the rabbi.
Mirlis was sexually assaulted so often that the encounters started to blur together, he added. Mirlis remembered, once, Greer lay naked on top of him in the “69” position; on another occasion, he added, Greer would “get in the doggy position,” hand the teen KY Jelly lube and be penetrated anally. Mirlis told Greer he “didn’t like it” when he was penetrated, but that also allegedly continued anyway.
They didn’t wear condoms, Mirlis told cops. He maintained that, on various encounters, he ejaculated inside Greer’s anus and mouth and on his stomach; after oral sex, Greer would ejaculate on his chest.
The final sexual assault was in June 2005, shortly after he graduated from the Yeshiva, Mirlis told the detectives.
Rabbi Posts Bond
Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford signed off on Greer’s arrest warrant on Tuesday.
Greer showed up at 1 Union Ave. at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday along with attorney David Grudberg (who was accompanying him while Dow, his lawyer in the criminal case, is on vacation) to surrender. Bond was set at $100,000. Greer posted it shortly after noon. As he left the police station, he declined comment to a reporter.
Greer denies the charges against him and plans to enter a plea of not guilty, Willie Dow, of Jacobs & Dow, said by phone. “Rabbi Greer has a long history of positive contributions to the New Haven community,” Dow said. “These charges are unfounded. He looks forward to addressing this case in court.”
Mirlis’s attorney, Antonio Ponvert III of Bridgeport’s Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, confirmed Wednesday that Mirlis also made the complaint to the New Haven police on which the investigation was based.
“Mirlis is relieved and gratified that the New Haven Police pursued this matter, and that Greer has been arrested and will now face criminal penalties for his sexual abuse of children. One of my client’s goals in bringing Greer’s abuse to light was to get this pedophile off the streets and far away from other people’s children,” Ponvert wrote in an email Wednesday. “Sexual predators — especially this so-called ‘rabbi’ and others who twist spiritual beliefs for their own sick pleasure — deserve to suffer all available civil and criminal penalties.”
Ponvert added that the arrest sends an important message about childhood sexual abuse. “My client and I hope that the $20 million judgment in the civil case and now this arrest will send a loud message to other victims that they can safely come forward and will be believed and a louder message to would-be child molestors that, if they touch a child, they will be pursued relentlessly, will be publicly humiliated, will lose everything they have, and will spend many years with their fellow rapists behind bars in a maximum-security prison,” he said.
In seeking to begin collecting on the $20 million federal civil verdict, Ponvert has obtained judgment liens on the yeshiva’s Elm Street building, property it owns in Bethany, and Greer’s personal residence in the Edgewood neighborhood.
The Greer case has destroyed a close-knit religious community that centered around the yeshiva. However, even though the school lost all its students, it has been reconstituted, and attracted new attention from state authorities. The Yeshiva of New Haven remains open, under new management, despite lacking the proper licenses to operate a boarding school. The Department of Children and Families and the State Department of Education are still scheduling a meeting with the school administration, a DCF spokesperson said last week.
Beginning in the 1980s, Rabbi Greer oversaw the revival of the neighborhood around his yeshiva at the corner of Norton and Elm streets, renovating neglected historic homes.
Over the years, Greer has also crusaded against gay rights in Connecticut, at times played an active role in politics and government, and advocated for keeping nuisance businesses out of the Whalley Avenue commercial corridor. He and his family earned national attention for exposing johns who patronized street prostitutes in the neighborhood, for filing suit against Yale University over a requirement that students live in coed dorms, and then in 2007 for launching an armed neighborhood “defense” patrol and then calling in the Guardian Angels for assistance to combat crime. In the 1970s, Greer also led a successful campaign to force the United States to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing Jewish “refuseniks” to emigrate here and start new, freer lives.