NY Daily News
June 4, 2012
To hear District Attorney Charles Hynes now tell it, members of Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have criminally protected child sex abusers by bullying victims and their families into silence.
"I haven't seen this kind of intimidation in organized-crime cases or police corruption," Hynes declared in an interview with the Daily News.
So whom among these obstructors of justice did Hynes prosecute? Virtually no one. And who
m among the predators did he send to prison? Far, far fewer than he should have across the first 19 of his more than 22 years in office.
As Hynes stunningly admitted to the Jewish Daily Forward, for almost two decades he was "completely unsuccessful" in prosecuting sex abuse by ultra-Orthodox Brooklynites, a group that was politically important to him and whose leaders discourage, as a matter of religion, involvement with civil authorities.
Hynes disputes that he was passive in the face of victimization — which is no more prevalent in this constituency than in any other — but the evidence is overwhelming that he took a destructively accommodating approach to sex crime prosecutions involving the ultra-Orthodox.
In 1998, Hynes let David Zimmer, accused of groping a 9-year-old girl and raping a 10-year-old, plead guilty to a single count and a sentence of probation. Zimmer was represented by the husband of Hynes' Jewish community liaison. Zimmer has since been charged in a series of molestations.
The 9-year-old's father told The New York Times: "If they don't want to prosecute, what are you going to do?"
In 2008, Hynes entered a plea bargain with Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a teacher with a 30-year history of abuse complaints. Charged with two felony counts, he pleaded to a misdemeanor, over the objection of a victim's father, and escaped jail time.
"I believe they were looking for angles out," the father told the Jewish Week newspaper.
In 2009, Hynes launched a program called Voice of Justice that was billed as a "culturally sensitive" approach to community resistance to reporting child abuse.
A few months later, the Forward reported the organizing body of Modern Orthodox rabbis had affirmed that rabbinic courts should decide whether to bring sexual abuse allegations against Jews to law enforcement.
In May 2011, The Forward reported that Agudath Israel of America, a leading ultra-Orthodox advocacy group, had also told followers that they could go to law enforcement only after consulting a rabbi, even if they were in professions mandated by state law to report abuse.
Rather than protest that religious authorities have no place interfering in criminal justice, let alone counseling to violation of law, a Hynes spokesman said: "If anyone asks us, we tell them to call police or the DA's office."
Last summer, Agudath Israel executive director Rabbi David Zwiebel told Hynes his organization was directing followers that they could report sex abuse only after a rabbi weighed the credib
ility of allegations. Zwiebel told the Times that Hynes "expressed no oppostion or objection."
That came to light in a report that also described how the community cowed victims
from testifying by expulsion from religious schools and synagogues and even eviction from apartments. The report became a tipping point for Hynes.
First, he wrote in a Daily News Op-Ed: "Although I would not interfere with anyone's decision to speak to their religious leader, I also expect allegations of criminal conduct to be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities."
Under severe criticism, he then escalated to warning that rabbis could be obstructing justice when they insist on talking to victims first.
He also defended his record over the past three years with statistics showing prosecutions by his Voice of Justice program, but he held to the misguided policy of refusing to disclose names of accused ultra-Orthodox offenders.
Hynes has also called for state legislation to mandate abuse reporting by clerics and formed a task force to address the witness intimidation that he compares to the tactics of organized crime.
He need only do the one thing he should have done since he was first elected in 1989: Prosecute.