Watch CBSN Live

Miami rabbi accused of molesting 11-year-old

MIAMI BEACH - A Florida rabbi is accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl and police are searching for more possible victims, reports CBS Miami.

Miami Beach police arrested Steve Karro, 55, on Thursday. He is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 12, and lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 16.

But Karro proclaimed his innocence as he left jail on bond.

"There was nothing inappropriate, nothing that I violated anybody's right," he said.

The station reports that according to his arrest report, Karro "intentionally touched/grabbed the buttocks" of an 11-year old girl on April 16. The report also states he kissed her along her neck after sitting her on his lap.

Police said the alleged victim has known Karro for five years, and Karro told the station that he has had past issues with the child's parents.

Karro said he treated the girl no differently than anyone else.

"It was not touch, it was hug and the way I hug everybody, the way I hug all the kids, the way I caress them the way I give everybody love. It was the same like everybody else," he said.

A CBS Miami reporter asked Karro: "Was there kissing?"

"There was plenty of time kissing, hugging, everything, yes," he responded, but insisted that his actions were not at all inappropriate.

Karro allegedly gave the girl candy and "told her not to tell her mother about what had happened."

He explained that by saying he was talking to the child about keeping a present for her mother's birthday a surprise.

Once he was arrested, police said, Karro denied the allegations, but said he touched the girl's buttocks for a "'cleansing,' as she was exhibiting negative energy."

"It's something very simple - love, harmony, cleansing, nothing else," he said outside of jail.

Karro was a substitute Rabbi at Shaare Ezra Sephardic Synagogue Congregation. The synagogue had no comment, but several people who know the rabbi supported him.

Rosa Haimov said, "I've known Rabbi Karro for many years and I do not believe he could do something like this. He only does good things to people only helps people."