By Michael Orbach (The Jewish Star)
May 5, 2010
A second child victim has come forward to accuse Michael Sabo, an Orthodox man from Flatbush, of sexual abuse.
Sabo, who had been out on $50,000 bail while awaiting trial for multiple counts of sexual assault, was re-arrested in February. The second victim, a child who was allegedly molested several years ago, was identified through photos found on Sabo's computer. The photos, as described to a reporter, are almost inconceivably graphic to the point where they couldn't begin to be described in this newspaper. In the new case, Sabo is charged with predatory sexual acts against a child and could face a maximum sentence of ten years to life.
Sabo's story was initially reported in The Jewish Star in September. At that time, the father of Sabo's first alleged victim, who was identified under the pseudonym of "Joseph," spoke with The Star about his concerns that Sabo was free on bail.
"I'm not doing this to get back at him," Joseph said. "I'm doing this to protect other children. Even my son feels [Sabo] has other [victims] ...I need to know he's away for a long time so he cannot hurt another child again."
Joseph discovered the alleged abuse in April 2009 when a third party brought to his attention a series of nine photographs of his son that were discovered online. The pictures, in which the boy was wearing a yarmulke, were several years old and pornographic in nature. Each photo was accompanied by a caption that included the boy's name and address and a phrase that indicated that the then-six-year-old boy had been molested. The father of the second-victim, personally acquainted with Sabo, was at first angered by The Jewish Star's coverage of the case.
"I was upset about [the initial coverage]," explained the man, whose name is being withheld to shield the identity of his child. "Why did they [Sabo's kids] have to know about it?"
He says his opinion has changed.
"I have to erase and reprogram my [child]," he said.
Sabo is currently on Rikers Island while his family attempts to raise the $2 million bail. $1 million has reportedly been raised so far; their attempts to have the bail lowered are alarming to some.
"I'm afraid he might flee," Joseph said, adding that more victims were in the process of coming forward and that Sabo allegedly preyed on "whatever was accessible." Asked if he believed Sabo poses a danger to other children if he is set free, he replied, "100-percent."
Sabo spoke to The Jewish Star at the time of the first article.
"This will pass," Sabo said back in September of 2009. "It might not be tomorrow. For all I know they could dismiss everything. You never know."
He hoped to move past the allegations. "I have four beautiful children, who need a father," Sabo said.
Sabo attended Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn, the school made infamous when its owner, Lipa Margulies, deflected investigations of a longtime teacher, Yehuda Kolko. Last year Kolko pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child endangerment. He is suspected of committing widespread sexual abuse. Sabo said he could not recall if he had been a victim of sexual abuse by Kolko.
"My therapist says it's repressed, right now, but I don't remember," said Sabo in the 2009 interview. Most sexual abusers were themselves abused as children, according to psychological literature.
Joseph credited Survivors for Justice, an organization that advocates for victims of sexual abuse inside the Jewish community, for helping him come forward.
"This case puts to lie the Agudah's rabbinical leaderships' position that it is "helpful" to discuss these issues with a rabbi," said Survivors for Justice President Ben Hirsch. "Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact a rabbi was consulted in the Sabo case—four years ago–at which time the rabbi insisted the matter remain unreported to the police. It remained unreported until last year when a clear headed and courageous parent reported this crime to the authorities. The sooner our community learns to report abuse directly to the police the sooner the level of sexual abuse within our community will drop down to societal norms."
During his bail hearing on Friday, April 30, Sabo wore a beige sweater over a pair of dark pants. He stood while his lawyers and the assistant district attorney discussed his case in a sidebar with the Judge John Walsh. Sabo locked his fingers beneath his handcuffed wrists.
"This is the first time he's wearing a yarmulke,' said Josef, the father of the first alleged victim. "It's already such a chilul Hashem," said one of the boy's supporters, who sat in the row behind the father.
The father of the second accuser held a plastic bag that contained t'shuva (halachic responsa) written by Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv authorizing the reporting of child molesters to secular authorities.
"He's responsible to pay me for all damages," the father intoned about Sabo. He said that Chaim Sabo, Michael's father, had been publicizing his child's name around the Jewish community in an attempt to intimidate the family and deter them from testifying against the younger Sabo.
After the bail hearing was adjourned until June, Sabo's family members stood in an uneasy cluster around the courtroom. When a reporter approached them for comment, Chaim Sabo, a jeweler who lives in Borough Park, grabbed the reporter's hand and squeezed it hard.
"What do you want? Have a nice day," Sabo's father said.
Once a picture was taken, Sabo's father attempted to follow the reporter and a child abuse activist into an elevator, before a male member of Sabo's immediate family, dressed in a white shirt and black pants, called him away.
Sabo's attorney is Jeffrey Schwartz, who successfully defended Cesar Rodriguez, the man who molested and beat to death his stepdaughter, Nixzmary Brown. That case achieved national notoriety.
"What everyone seems to fail to remember is that child molesters are the most abused forgotten victims," Schwartz explained. "99 percent of the time they were viciously abused and they never got care. They're child abuse victims who have languished their whole lives and they reached a point when they start acting out since that's all they know. There's no rachmones (pity) for these people who are the ultimate victims. People forget to remember that."