Judge: Comments Made By Teacher Charged With Sex Abuse Admissible In Court

by Kathleen Hopkins (Asbury Park Press)
May 18, 2011

A judge ruled Tuesday that admissions a former yeshiva teacher made to a social worker about sexual abuse allegations against him can be used at his upcoming trial.

Defense attorney Michael E. Wilbert argued to Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson that statements his client, Yosef Kolko, made to a social worker should be considered privileged and not disclosed in court.

But Hodgson ruled that Kolko, 37, of Lakewood waived his privilege when he signed a form allowing information from his sessions with the social worker to be disclosed to the Beis Din in Lakewood, a rabbinical council considering the molestation charges against Kolko.

After making the ruling, Hodgson set April 2, 2012 as a tentative trial date for Kolko.

Kolko, a former teacher at the Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood and a onetime counseler at Yachad, a summer camp at the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School in Lakewood, is accused of sexually abusing a boy he met at the summer camp.

The alleged abuse occurred between September 2007 and February 2009, when the boy was between 11 and 12 years old.

Kolko was charged in an indictment last year with aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment.

When the victim's father first brought the allegations to the Beis Din, the religious council engaged the services of Brooklyn social worker Gavriel Fagen to interview Kolko to determine the legitimacy of the charges, Hodgson said.

Kolko, during the interviews with Fagen, was advised that information would be reported to the Beis Din, and Kolko signed forms allowing that, Hodgson said.

"I think that it is not a small factor to be considered that (the Beis Din) is a parallel justice system ... within a closed community,'' Hodgson said.

"I'm satisfied that during the course of the sessions, given that it was to be shared with other individuals, that the defendant sufficiently waived privilege,'' the judge said.

Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro had sought to have a report by Fagen containing Kolko's admissions presented at trial.

Hodgson said Pierro may call Fagen as a witness to testify about his report.

At a hearing in March, Fagen testified that Kolko opened up to him about the molestation allegations. "There were a lot of specifics,'' Fagen said then.

A conference in the case is scheduled for July 25.