Four orthodox Jewish men arrested after allegedly photographing sex abuse victim on witness stand
The men were attending the trial of Nechemya Weberman, who is accused of forcing the girl, who was sent to him for counseling at the age of 12, to perform oral sex on him over a period of three years.
The New York Times reports that according to a Brooklyn prosecutor's spokesperson, the men allegedly uploaded at least one of the photographs, taken on cell phones, to Twitter.
"The message they're trying to send to victims in this community is to keep quiet," says Ben Hirsch, the president of Survivors for Justice, an advocacy and educational group on issues of sexual abuse within the orthodox community. "If you step out of line, you're not safe. The judge, the DA, they cannot protect you. We're going to get you. We're going to expose you."
Weberman and the alleged victim, now 17, are both members of the ultra-orthodox Satmar sect, an insular Jewish community based in Brooklyn, N.Y. The girl was reportedly sent to Weberman for counseling because she was behaving in a "rebellious" manner, including reading People magazine and wearing stockings that were not considered thick enough to adhere to the strict modesty standards of the community.
"To an outsider, the reasons they were forcing her into counseling are hard to fathom," says Hirsch. But, he says, the girl's parents "trusted" Weberman, and were told that if she did not receive his counseling, she would be kicked out of school.
Weberman is accused of, among other things, forcing the girl to perform oral sex on him during these "counseling" sessions.
"He is charismatic," says Hirsch. "And he was the go-to guy for 'troubled' kids. If people believed their child was leaving the fold they would go to him. Parents sought him out and trusted him."
Hirsch says that he wasn't surprised to learn of the alleged photographing, saying that the leadership of the ultra-orthodox community sees the girl's accusations and testimony as "dragging the community through the mud."
"This conduct is par for the course," says Hirsch. "If you don't toe the line, there are no rules."
Over the summer, four men from the Satmar sect were arrested for allegedly attempting to keep the girl from testifying against Weberman by offering her a $500,000 bribe. According to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, Jacob Berger, Joseph Berger, Hertzka Berger and Abraham Rubin were charged with counts including aggravated harassment and coercion. The case is pending.
The four men arrested on Thursday have been identified by the Brooklyn prosecutor as Joseph Fried, Yona Weisman, Abraham Zupnick and Lemon Juice. They are expected to be arraigned on charges of criminal contempt Friday afternoon.
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