Friday, March 07, 2003

Case of Rabbi Bernard Freilich

 Case of Rabbi Bernard Freilich

Council of Jewish Organizations in Borough Park - Brooklyn, NY

Accused of Witness Tampering and Obstruction of Justice

According to Rabbi Bernard Freilich: 
"It is impossible that an Orthodox Chassidic person would even speak to a female, much less touch her."

For many years and on many cases Rabbi Bernard Frielich has been accused of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and harassing anyone who gets in his way.  Back in 1995 -- Rabbi Bernard Freilich was acquitted of death threats made to an alleged incest survivor.

For many years Frielich was the administrator of the Council of Jewish Organizations in Borough Park.  Back in 1995 Bernard Freilich told The New York Times that "people are outraged at these charges. They are unbelievable, impossible nonsense. It is impossible that an Orthodox Chassidic person would even speak to a female, much less touch her."

In March, 2011 Bernard Freilich was caught wearing a police badge, yet has never been a police officer.

  1. Two Rabbis Are Charged In Sexual Abuse on a Plane  (06/02/1995)  
  2. Grand jury to hear sexual misconduct case involving rabbis (06/06/1995)

  1. Officials Seize Records Of Jewish Charity Group (11/20/1996)

  1. Rabbi Made Threats In Rape Case: Probers (05/14/1999)
  2. Rabbi charged with tampering: State police liaison dismisses misdemeanor as pure garbage  (05/15/1999)
  3. Brooklyn Rabbi Charged With Witness Tampering  (05/16/1999)
  4. Rabbi on state police payroll  (05/27/1999)
  5. A prominent Hasidic rabbi has been charged with making death threats  (06/23/1999)
  6. Rabbi Is Charged With Threatening a Witness in a Rape Case (06/23/1999)
  7. Rabbi adviser to State Police indicted  (06/24/1999)
  8. N.Y. rabbi accused of death threats  (07/09/1999)
  9. Rabbi's Lawyers Charged, TOO, Intimidation Case (07/14/1999)
  10. Rabbi's Lawyer Expects to Face Charges in Death Threat Case  (07/14/1999)
  11. 2 Lawyers Join 2 Rabbis Accused of Tampering  (07/15/1999)
  12. Lawyers charged in probe of rabbis  (08/06/1999)

  1. Rabbi Is Acquitted In Death Threat Case  (03/07/2000)
  2. Da & Staff Draw Fire From Rabbis   (03/08/2000)
  3. Rabbis' Ruling May Nix Bid To Indict Suspect in Kid-Sex Rap (03/11/2000)
  4. Orthodox Jews, Angered Over Recent Cases, Up in Arms Against Brooklyn D.A.  (03/15/2000)
  5. Brooklyn rabbi acquitted  (03/16/2000)

  1.  Rabbi Bernard Freilich on Incest   (02/18/2003)

  • Silence of the Lamb   (07/25/2006)

  • Brooklyn, NY - Rabbi Bernard Freilich Hugs DA Charles Hynes Who Prosecuted Him (05/01/2007)
  • Albany, NY - Rabbi Bernard Freilich Honoring Fallen Troopers (05/20/2007)

  • New York State Police Superintendent Visits Satmar Community (06/08/2010)

  • Rabbi wearing a badge not a police officer (03/07/2011)

Also see:
  1. Case of Rabbi Yehudah Friedlander 
  2. Case of Rabbi Israel Grunwald
  3. Case of Rabbi Solomon Hafner 
  4. Case of Rabbi Dr. Avrohom Mondrowitz

Two Rabbis Are Charged In Sexual Abuse on a Plane
New York Times - June 2, 1995

The chief rabbi of a Hungarian Hasidic congregation in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and his assistant rabbi were charged in Los Angeles yesterday with sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl on a flight from Melbourne, Australia, where the men had been on a lecture tour. The rabbis denied the allegations.

The suspects, Rabbi Israel Grunwald, 44, the head of Congregation Tuldos Yakov Yosef, and his assistant, Rabbi Yehudah Friedlander, 44, were arrested as they stepped off a plane at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday on the basis of a complaint made during the flight by a sobbing girl and radioed ahead, Federal officials said.

Arraigned in Los Angeles yesterday before a United States magistrate, Carolyn Turchin, Rabbi Grunwald was released on $10,000 bail for a June 21 preliminary hearing on a Federal charge of sexually touching a minor, an offense with maximum penalties of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Rabbi Friedlander, who was charged with more extensive sexual abuse, was held for further investigation after the court was told he had admitted some of the acts to Federal agents, though contending that the girl had encouraged him, and that Rabbi Friedlander had pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree sexual abuse in Monticello, N.Y., in 1991. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years and a $250,000 fine.

Neither suspect entered a formal plea during the hearings, which were attended by dozens of rabbis from Los Angeles and New York in support of their colleagues. But outside the court, Mitchell Egers, a lawyer representing both men, said his clients vehemently denied the charges.

"These are fine, decent, moral men, highly respected and looked up to by thousands of people in their community," Mr. Egers said. He said neither rabbi knew the girl, who is American, and he called the case "a mixup" and said he was "confident that the truth will emerge and that we'll all be happy."

Rabbi Bernard Freilich, administrator of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park, which represents 250 Jewish congregations, said Rabbi Grunwald was the son of Josef Grunwald, the late Grand Rabbi of the Pupa Hasidim, who transplanted Holocaust survivors from Pupa, Hungary, to Brooklyn after World War II.

Today, the sect has more than 12,000 members in Monsey, N.Y., Montreal, London and Jerusalem, as well as in Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn. Yakov Grunwald, the founder's eldest son, is the Grand Rabbi and head of the Williamsburg community, and Israel Grunwald leads several hundred families in Borough Park.

The acts were said to have occurred on United Air Lines Flight 842 over the Pacific. Federal prosecutors, who assumed jurisdiction under laws governing United States aircraft in flight, said the girl, whose name was withheld because of her age -- she turned 15 during the flight -- had accused Rabbi Grunwald, after first engaging her in conversation, of reaching across an empty seat, placing his hand under her shirt and touching her breast.

The girl's detailed complaint said Rabbi Friedlander, who had been sitting on the far side of his colleague, exchanged seats with Rabbi Grunwald, and made a series of unwanted approaches while the cabin lights were dimmed for movies and rest periods during the long overnight flight.

She said he forced his hand under her clothing and touched her breast repeatedly and her vagina, despite her pleas for him to stop and her efforts to push his hand away. The girl said she finally began sobbing and retreated to the lavatory.

An affidavit by Mark Van Steenburg, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's senior agent at the Los Angeles Airport, said that another passenger, Sheila Myers, seated across an aisle just forward of the girl, told him she saw Rabbi Friedlander grope the girl for five to eight minutes under a blanket and alerted the flight crew.

Mr. Van Steenburg said Rabbi Friedlander told him the girl had put his hand on her breast twice, and on her pelvic area. "I did it, I shouldn't have done it, but it happened," the agent quoted the rabbi as saying.

The allegations stunned the rabbis' colleagues, neighbors and members of their community in Borough Park, many of whom called the actions unthinkable and the charges unbelievable, possibly trumped up by the teen-aged girl. They also complained that the rabbis, who were dressed in their traditional black garb and wore beards and sidecurls, had been humiliated by Federal agents who handcuffed them as they stepped off the plane.

"It's the most shocking thing I could ever think of," said a neighbor of Rabbi Grunwald, who lives with his family above his synagogue at 1137 53d Street.

Rabbi Freilich spoke of "tremendous anger in the Jewish community" over the charges, and said: "It is impossible that an Orthodox Hasidic person would even speak to a female, much less touch her. Our information is that she was trying to get into a conversation with them. To us, it looks like she drummed up a charge."

Rabbi charged with tampering: State police liaison dismisses misdemeanor as pure garbage
By Kristen Schweizer and Oliver Mackson
Assoicated Press - May 15, 1999

BROOKLYN -- A rabbi employed by State Police as a liaison to the Orthodox community was charged Thursday with threatening a rape/incest victim not to testify against her father. Rabbi Bernard Freilich, who earns $76,000 a year as a special assistant to State Police Superintendent James McMahon, was charged with witness tampering, a misdemeanor. Freilich has worked since 1995 as a State Police liaison. Though he is based in Borough Park, Freilich spends much of his time working with local police and Hasidic communities in the Hudson Valley.

His arrest Thursday happened two weeks after Freilich was asked by the Monticello “re chief to help with an investigation into three 〓res at a Kiamesha yeshiva. The 〓re chief branded the 〓res arsons. Freilich told The Times Herald-Record it was not arson, but religious bondaries. Thursday afternoon in Brooklyn, Freilich turned himself in to police and was subsequently charged with witness tampering, said Detective Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman with the New York City Police Department.

Following his arrest, Freilich was relieved of his official duties and suspended without pay by the State Police "until the matter is resolved," said Lt. Jamie Mills, a State Police spokeswoman. Though he works for the State Police, Freilich's salary is paid by the New York State Health Department, for reasons that were unclear yesterday. In the past, Freilich has helped State Police deal with secular and religious matters in several communities, including the Orange County Village of Kiryas Joel. The village is composed almost entirely of Satmar Hasidic Jews.

He has conducted seminars for new troopers in Monroe, explaining some of the more esoteric points of life in the insular community. The village has been the scene of factional feuding, which at times has turned violent. State Police patrol the village, and they often encounter a language barrier with the Yiddish-speaking Hasidim. "It's not that some communities are more sensitive than others - but where customs are involved, there needs to be understanding," the rabbi said in a 1995 interview with The Times Herald-Record. “There should be the same respect for the Muslim community, for every community."

Mills said one of Freilich's duties with both departments is as a “spiritual adviser."  Prior to his arrest, Freilich was identified by a 22-year-old woman and her husband as the man who threatened both of them if the woman testified in court, Pentangelo said. On April 25, Freilich and two others were charged with threatening the woman, he said. The alleged rape happened in February.

The Daily News reported yesterday that Freilich went to the woman's home and warned her that if she testifed against her father in the case "she would end up in the cemetery."  Freilich allegedly threatened the woman's husband the next day. The woman's father was charged Feb. 28 with first-degree rape, incest, sex abuse and harassment. He was arrested again on April 22 for witness tampering and criminal contempt - the father had violated an order of protection by pounding on his daughter's door yelling, “If you do not cancel your police report, this is your last day in this world,“ according to court records. Freilich told the Daily News the charges were 〓pure garbage.“

“There is no reason for me to be arrested,“ he said. Freilich has given invaluable help to the State Police in Kiryas Joel, said Senior Investigator John Van Der Molen, the supervisor of investigators at the State Police Monroe barracks. Because of the community〓s insularity, victims - and witnesses - of crimes in Kiryas Joel are sometimes difficult to locate and interview.

“A lot of times, the Hasidic people are reluctant to talk to authorities, and he's the go-between that I'll make the arrangements,“ Van Der Molen said. “If we have reluctant witnesses, he draws them out and gets them to us.“

Freilich also translates for troopers from Yiddish. “He has a lot of power and respect in the community Van Der Molen said. My dealings with him in Monroe have been very positive. He's been a great assistance, numerous times, with investigations going on there. I've never had any bad dealings with the guy.


Grand jury to hear sexual misconduct case involving rabbis
Jewish Telegraphic Agency - June 9, 1995

LOS ANGELES -- Federal authorities will decide next week whether to seek indictments of a respected Chassidic rabbi and his assistant, both of whom have been charged with sexually abusing a 15-year old girl on a flight from Australia to Los Angeles.

The assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, Joel Thvedt, said he intended to present the case to a grand jury, which would decide whether to prosecute.

The accused are Rabbi Israel Grunwald of Brooklyn, a leader of the Hungarian Pupa Chassidim, and his assistant, Yehudah Friedlander, both 44 years old.

Their arrests have sparked outrage in the Chassidic and Orthodox communities of New York, while Los Angeles rabbis moved quickly to aid their colleagues.

Both of the accused have vehemently denied the charges, according to their attorney, Mitchell W. Egers.

After a hearing here June 2, U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Turchin released Grunwald on $10,000 bail. He immediately flew back to New York.

Grunwald, charged with sexually touching a minor, faces a maximum of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted.

Friedlander remained in detention over the Sabbath and the Shavuot holiday, despite Egers' protests. He was being held pending clarification of the disposition of a 1991 arrest in New York state, in which he was charged with a sexual offense.

On Tuesday, Turchin denied a cash bail to Friedlander, calling him "a danger to society."

The judge said Friedlander only would be released if someone put up his or her house with equity valued at least at $100,000.

If convicted, Friedlander, who was charged with more extensive sexual abuse, faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Friedlander has been identified in the media as a rabbi or "assistant rabbi," but according to Egers and New York sources, he is actually a non-rabbinical assistant.

A nine-page affidavit submitted to the court by an FBI agent, which cites statements by the young girl, a witness on the plane and Friedlander, alleges a number of occurrences during the long United Air Lines overnight flight.

The girl, an American traveling alone, accused Grunwald of leaning across an empty seat and, following some conversation, touching her necklace and fondling her breasts.

At some point, Friedlander allegedly exchanged seats with Grunwald, and while the cabin lights were dimmed, Friedlander allegedly groped and fondled the girl's private parts and breast for some five to eight minutes, the complaint charged.

The teenager told authorities that she tried to fend off the advances but was too embarrassed to call for help. However, a woman passenger observed the alleged incident, talked to the girl and then notified the flight crew, which radioed a report to authorities.

When the plane landed in Los Angeles, FBI agents, who assumed jurisdiction under the laws governing American aircraft in flight, arrested the two men.

One agent quoted Friedlander as telling him that it was the girl who initiated the advances, adding that "I shouldn't have done it, but it happened."

Egers said Friedlander was "in a state of shock and deeply upset that the whole Jewish world" knows about the accusations.

Egers, a veteran trial lawyer with close ties to the Orthodox community, said when he and his two clients appeared in court last week, he was "besieged by armies of reporters, with just about all the media from New York and Los Angeles on hand." For a day, "we were bigger than the O.J. Simpson case."

Reaction to the arrests was sharpest in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, where Grunwald serves as rabbi of Congregation Tuldos Yacov Yosef.

Rabbi Bernard Freilich, administrator of the Council of Jewish Organizations in Boro Park, told The New York Times that "people are outraged at these charges. They are unbelievable, impossible nonsense. It is impossible that an Orthodox Chassidic person would even speak to a female, much less touch her."

Rabbi Abner Weiss of the Orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills took a less categorical view. He was being installed as the new president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California when he received word of the arrests.

In his first act in office, Weiss conferred with Aaron Kriegel, a Conservative rabbi who serves as prison chaplain, to assure that the two Chasidim would receive kosher food. Weiss said he personally bought loaves of challah for Grunwald and Friedlander.

Without passing judgment on the case, Weiss, who holds a graduate degree in psychology, noted that, in general, "Jews are not immune to any kind of illness, physical or mental."


Officials Seize Records Of Jewish Charity Group
New York Times -  November 20, 1996

Federal and city agents seized records from a politically influential social-services group in Brooklyn yesterday, and an investigator said they were examining whether government money and charitable contributions to the group had been illegally diverted for other uses.

The group, the Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park, whose programs include job training and aid to local businesses and immigrants, has long been an essential stop for politicians seeking support from Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the city's Department of Investigation arrived at the group's headquarters at 5224 13th Avenue, in the bustling commercial heart of Borough Park, and carted off dozens of boxes of records and files, as bystanders gathered on the street outside.

The executive assistant United States Attorney in Brooklyn, William Muller, would say only that ''a search warrant from this district was executed this morning at the offices'' of the council, which is widely known in Borough Park as COJO. But Mr. Muller declined to provide any other information, saying that the court papers submitted to support the request for a search warrant were sealed.

Another official involved in the investigation, however, who insisted on anonymity, said, ''There are allegations that charitable contributions and Federal and state money that went into the council were being used for personal expenses.''

The official declined to say who might have misappropriated the money, saying only, ''We're looking at a number of people.''

The council has close links to Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat, who represents the area. He has obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money for the council and its affiliates, which in turn have doled out lucrative consulting contracts to Mr. Hikind's aides, political advisers and at least one of his relatives.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it would be unfair to describe Mr. Hikind, or any other individual, as a target of the investigation, which he described as in an early stage.

Mr. Hikind issued a statement through his office yesterday that said: ''COJO is a communal organization affiliated with the Borough Park community for over 20 years. Until the investigation is completed, I have no further comment.''

Last summer, the Assemblyman said that once he obtained state money for the council, he did not monitor how the organization spent it, but that he thought that the money had been used properly for charitable works. He also termed preposterous any notion that he expected the council to provide jobs for his aides in return for the funds. Nonetheless, he said, he would no longer allow people in his office to work for the council.

The only official of the council who could be reached yesterday, Rabbi Bernard Freilich, the director of administration, said he had no idea what the investigators were looking for yesterday and what records they took. ''I wasn't there,'' he said.

Among those who could not be reached at the council's offices or at their homes were the council's executive director, Rabbi Morris Shmidman.

The council coordinates the work of 200 Jewish organizations in Borough Park, a stronghold of Orthodox Jewish life in New York City. The council's events have long drawn candidates for office, who are well aware of the strong voter turnout among Orthodox Jews in the city, and its officials enjoy good relations with elected officials from City Hall to Albany to Washington.

When he was running for mayor three years ago, for example, Rudolph W. Giuliani spoke before the council. At its annual awards dinner in 1989, Mayor Edward I. Koch, in an unsuccessful campaign for re-election, gave the keynote address, while two Democratic rivals, David N. Dinkins, who defeated him that year, and Richard Ravitch, were also on hand.

Politicians have not been the only ones the council has helped.

Inside its building yesterday evening, classes in English were being held for immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Others in the area also spoke of what it had done for them.

''They helped me find a job in a camera store,'' Stanley Goldstein, 40 years old, said after the Federal and city investigators had left with the records.

''It's a place you go to for help,'' he added. ''As far as I know, it was a good organization.''


Rabbi Made Threats In Rape Case: Probers
By William K. Rashbaum
New York Daily News - Friday, May 14, 1999

A politically connected Brooklyn rabbi was charged yesterday with threatening an alleged rape-incest victim with death if she testified against her father, authorities said.

Police charged Bernard Freilich, who holds posts with the state police and Health Department, with misdemeanor witness tampering. Sources said prosecutors will present the case to a grand jury and seek felony charges.

The $76,000-a-year special assistant to state police Superintendent James McMahon went to the alleged victim's home April 25 and warned that if she testified, "she would end up in the cemetery," authorities said.

Freilich, a prominent Hasidic rabbi in Borough Park, threatened her husband the next day, authorities said.

The state police said in a statement that Freilich had been suspended without pay and relieved of his duties, which "included being a spiritual adviser to the state police and the Health Department."


Brooklyn Rabbi Charged With Witness Tampering
New York Times - May 16, 1999

A prominent Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn has been accused of making death threats against a woman scheduled to testify against her father on rape charges, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The rabbi, Bernard Freilich, was charged with misdemeanor witness tampering on Thursday, said Kevin Davitt, a spokesman for the Kings County District Attorney's office. Mr. Davitt added that prosecutors would seek to upgrade the charge to a felony next week.

Prosecutors at his arraignment could have already charged Rabbi Freilich with the felony. But Mr. Davitt said that they chose to wait because the police in Borough Park, where the rabbi lives, insisted that he be charged with a misdemeanor.

Marilyn Mode, a spokeswoman for the Police Department, refused to comment on Mr. Davitt's statement, except to say, ''It is the District Attorney who decides the charges.''

Rabbi Freilich, who has been active in political and civic issues in Borough Park and is a special assistant to State Police Superintendent James McMahon, went to the woman's home in Borough Park on April 25 and warned her that she ''would end up in the cemetery'' if she testified against her father, according to officials with the Kings County District Attorney's office. Rabbi Freilich pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment on Thursday.

Rabbi on state police payroll
River Reporter - May 27, 1999

ALBANY -- New York State has been paying a Brooklyn rabbi $76,000 a year as a "spiritual advisor" to the state police, according to a Times Herald-Record report.

Rabbi Bernard Freilich was paid by the Health Department and drove an unmarked state police car, but neither agency is saying exactly what he was doing.

Others say the rabbi acted as cultural and language interpreter for the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, but no similar interpreters are maintained for other religious or cultural groups.

Freilich was recently suspended from the job after New York City police charged him with intimidating a woman who planned to testify in support of her charge that she was raped by her father.


A prominent Hasidic rabbi has been charged with making death threats
Associated Press - June 23, 1999

NEW YORK CITY — A prominent Hasidic rabbi has been charged with making death threats against a 22-year-old woman to keep her from testifying that her father raped her as a child.

Rabbi Bernard Freilich, 47, allegedly went to the woman's home earlier this year and told her he "would teach her a lesson and send her to the cemetery" if she took the stand, court papers said. A grand jury indicted Freilich on felony charges of witness-tampering, witness intimidation, and harassment. If convicted, he would face up to 4 years in prison.

Freilich had pleaded not guilty in May to misdemeanor charges in the same case. His lawyer said he will enter the same plea when he's arraigned on the more serious charges next month. The attorney described his client as a community leader who prides himself on his connections to law enforcement. Before he was first charged, Freilich had been a special assistant to a superintendent in the New York State Police.

The lawyer said Freilich does not know his accuser, whose name was not released. But prosecutors have said the rabbi and the woman's father are close friends. The father was charged in Feb. with first-degree rape, incest, sex abuse, and harassment in the pending criminal case. He was arrested again on April 22 after allegedly violating an order of protection by pounding on his daughter's door and warning her it would be her last day unless she withdrew her accusations.

Prosecutors say that three days later — with the daughter about to testify before a grand jury — Freilich went to her home and threatened her; allegedly repeating the threats the next day. Another Borough Park man also has been charged with trying to get the woman to drop the charges.


Rabbi Is Charged With Threatening a Witness in a Rape Case
New York Times - June 23, 1999

A prominent Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn was indicted yesterday on felony charges that he made death threats against a woman scheduled to testify that her father had repeatedly raped her as a child, officials with the Kings County District Attorney's office said.

The rabbi, Bernard Freilich, 47, of Borough Park, was charged by a grand jury with witness tampering, witness intimidation and harassment, said Kevin Davitt, a spokesman for the District Attorney's office. If convicted of the most serious charges -- tampering with a witness and intimidation of a witness -- Rabbi Freilich could spend up to four years in prison, Mr. Davitt said.

Noting that Rabbi Freilich had previously pleaded innocent to misdemeanor charges of the same crimes, the rabbi's lawyer, George Meissner, said his client would also plead innocent to the felonies. He is to be arraigned in about two weeks.

''He's not guilty, absolutely not guilty,'' Mr. Meissner said, adding that the community supports his client. He said he did not know whether the father and daughter were members of the rabbi's congregation. Prosecutors said the rabbi and the father were close friends.

Mr. Meissner said that his client had repeatedly offered to take a polygraph test, if his accusers would do the same.

''Why these people picked on him, I have no idea,'' he said.

Mr. Davitt noted yesterday that the results of polygraph tests are not admissible in court. ''It would have no value to either party,'' he said.

According to prosecutors, on April 25, Mr. Freilich went to the home of the woman, whose name was not released, and warned her that she ''would end up in the cemetery'' if she testified against her father.

The father was charged on Feb. 28 with first-degree rape, incest, sexual abuse and harassment. Prosecutors said he repeatedly molested his daughter over several years. The father was arrested again in April and charged with witness tampering and criminal contempt. Despite a restraining order, prosecutors said, he pounded on his daughter's door, yelling that unless she took back the charges, it would be her last day on earth.

Prosecutors said Pinchas Shor, another prominent member of the Borough Park neighborhood, has also been charged with witness tampering in the case.

Asked why Rabbi Freilich was not originally charged with felony counts, Mr. Davitt said that police officials at the 66th Precinct station house in Borough Park had been insistent that the charges remain misdemeanors. Mr. Davitt declined to speculate on their motivation.

Before he was charged, Rabbi Freilich had been a special assistant and spiritual adviser to Superintendent James McMahon of the New York State Police. He has been suspended without pay, according to the state police and his lawyer.


Rabbi adviser to State Police indicted
Record OnLine - June 24, 1999

NEW YORK – A Brooklyn rabbi who serves as a $76,000-a-year "spiritual adviser" to the State Police was indicted Tuesday on felony charges of tampering with and intimidating a witness.

A Brooklyn grand jury handed up the indictment of Rabbi Bernard Freilich, 47, of Borough Park, a month after he was first charged with threatening a rape victim of the consequences if she testified against her father, the suspect.

Freilich, a leader in the Hasidic Jewish community in Borough Park, is accused of telling the 22-year-old woman that he would "teach her a lesson and send her to the cemetery" if she testified against her father.

The indictment won't have any effect on Freilich's State Police job, state officials said. He has been suspended without pay since his arrest last month.

"He continues on suspension until the criminal matter is resolved," said Lt. Jamie Mills, a State Police spokeswoman.

Although he is based in Borough Park, Freilich has spent much of his time since he was hired in 1975 working as a liaison between police and Hasidic communities in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, including the Orange County Village of Kiryas Joel.

No other religious or ethnic group has a similar intermediary on the state payroll, a fact that troubles three local members of the state Assembly.

In interviews with The Record last month, Tom Kirwan, R-C-Newburgh, said the job was "obviously a payoff. I think it's outrageous that we do that." Kirwan is a retired member of the State Police.

Reps. Nancy Calhoun, R-C-Blooming Grove and Jake Gunther, D-C-Forestburgh, also questioned whether the position should exist.

It was first established in 1984 by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, with the title of special assistant to the State Police superintendent.

Neither Pataki or Cuomo responded last month to numerous requests by The Record to discuss the post. Calls yesterday to Pataki's office were referred to Caroline Quartoraro, a spokeswoman for Katherine Lapp, the state's director of criminal justice.

"I don't think we're going to respond to Tom Kirwan," Quartoraro said yesterday. 

"Most large police departments have somebody who's a chaplain. In that respect, the State Police having a chaplain is just like, say, an Army chaplain or any other police department having a chaplain," Quartoraro said.

Kenny Jones, secretary-treasurer of the State Police Investigators Association, said the 900 members of his union don't consider Freilich a spiritual adviser. 

"I would say the vast majority of them, 80 percent or more, are Christian. I can't imagine anything more offensive than to say that one person is a spiritual leader to all members. I am sure I don't have one Hasidic member," Jones said yesterday. "The rabbi, the so-called spiritual adviser, is not the spiritual adviser for his own community. He's a political operative."

N.Y. rabbi accused of death threats
JTA - July 9, 1999

NEW YORK (JTA) -- A New York grand jury late last month indicted a rabbi on charges that he made death threats against a woman scheduled to testify that her father had raped her as a child.

Bernard Freilich of Boro Park, Brooklyn, is scheduled to be arraigned this month on felony charges of witness tampering, witness intimidation and harassment.

A lawyer for Freilich, who has been suspended from his job as special assistant and spiritual adviser to the New York state police, said he would plead innocent to the charges. The woman's father has been charged with first-degree rape, witness-tampering and criminal contempt.

Rabbi's Lawyers Charged, Too, In Intimidation Case
By William K. Rashbaum and Jerry Capeci 
New York Daily News - Wednesday, July 14th 1999

Two politically connected Brooklyn lawyers have been charged with conspiring with a prominent Hasidic rabbi to intimidate an incest-rape victim from testifying against her father, sources said yesterday.

George Meissner and Richard Finkel are expected to surrender today and will be arraigned in Brooklyn on charges they conspired with Rabbi Bernard Freilich, who was arrested on witness-tampering charges May 13, sources said.

Neither of the two lawyers returned calls seeking comment yesterday.

Meissner and Finkel represented the rabbi, who allegedly threatened the woman with death if she testified.

Charges against Freilich, who is now represented by Peter Schlam, were upraded last month from misdemeanor to felony.

Freilich and Pinchas Shor, another rabbi charged with the same crimes, pleaded not guilty yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Betsy Barros. Both were released on their own recognizance.

Shor showed up with scores of supporters, many who said they would be alibi witnesses.
"It never happened," Shor said. "I never threatened anyone. I help people, I don't threaten people."

Shor is charged with threatening the woman with injury if she testified.

Freilich, who holds a $76,000 state job with the state police and the Health Department, declined to comment.

"The indictment against Rabbi Freilich is without merit, and he will be vindicated," Schlam said.
He added that Freilich has passed a lie-detector test, and has offered to take another one administered by prosecutors an offer that has been declined, Schlam said.

Meissner is a fixture in Brooklyn Democratic politics, having served as a district leader in the 1970s, when he had ties to then-Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito. He now has an active criminal-law practice in Brooklyn's Orthodox community and has been involved in several high-profile cases.

Rabbi's Lawyer Expects to Face Charges in Death Threat Case

New York Times - July 14, 1999

The lawyer for a Brooklyn rabbi charged with making death threats against a woman scheduled to testify in a rape case expects to be indicted today, the lawyer's attorney said last night.

The lawyer, George S. Meissner, does not know what the charges are, only that ''an indictment will be unsealed,'' said his attorney, Benjamin Brafman. But a person familiar with the case against the rabbi said that the charges against Mr. Meissner stemmed from the case involving the rabbi and might include conspiracy. The Brooklyn District Attorney's office declined to comment.

Mr. Meissner, a prominent, politically active lawyer with close ties to the Orthodox Jewish community, is defending Bernard Freilich, a rabbi in Borough Park who was indicted last month on charges of witness tampering, witness intimidation and harassment.

Prosecutors say that in April, Mr. Freilich went to the home of a woman who was scheduled to testify that her father had repeatedly raped her when she was a child and told her she would ''end up in the cemetery'' if she testified. Mr. Freilich was arraigned yesterday.

Mr. Brafman said that whatever the charges against Mr. Meissner turned out to be, he was not guilty.

''All I can say is that Mr. Meissner is one of the most respected, talented lawyers in the city and this has got to be a terrible mistake,'' Mr. Brafman said. ''We are confident that when all the facts come out, he will be completely vindicated.''

Mr. Meissner, who has been a lawyer for more than 40 years, is known for his work in several high-profile cases. He was the lawyer for the Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park, a powerful vote-producing group.

Mr. Meissner was also a longtime paid director of the state Division of Servicemen's Voting until he resigned in 1991 under pressure from Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

In another political era, he was the lawyer and associate of Meade Esposito, the longtime Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman.

2 Lawyers Join 2 Rabbis Accused of Tampering
New York Times - July 15, 1999

Two lawyers were charged yesterday in a widening witness-tampering case involving a Brooklyn man accused of raping his daughter.

The lawyers, George Meissner and Richard Finkel, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to intimidate the woman who accused her father of rape. Prosecutors say the lawyers were acting on behalf of a client, Rabbi Bernard Freilich. Rabbi Freilich is one of two rabbis previously charged with threatening to harm the woman, who is 22, if she testified against her father, a member of Borough Park's Orthodox Jewish community.

The father was charged last February with first-degree rape, incest and sexual abuse for attacks that prosecutors say occurred in 1996 and 1997. He was arrested again on April 22 on charges that he violated an order of protection by pounding on his daughter's door and warning her that it would be her last day unless she withdrew her accusations.

An indictment alleges that Mr. Meissner and Mr. Finkel arranged a meeting with the woman in May in which Mr. Meissner told her that if she did not drop her accusations, she ''would be punished for unrelated matters.''

Lawyers charged in probe of rabbis
JTA - August 6, 1999

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Two lawyers were among those charged last month with conspiring to intimidate a witness in a widening incest-rape case involving two rabbis in Brooklyn.

George Meissner and Richard Finkel previously represented Rabbi Bernard Freilich, who is accused of attempting to prevent a woman from testifying that her father repeatedly raped her when she was a child. Freilich and Rabbi Pinchas Shor pleaded not guilty to separate charges last month.

Rabbi Is Acquitted In Death Threat Case
New York Times - March 7, 2000

A prominent Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn was acquitted of felony charges yesterday that he had made death threats against a young woman who had accused her father of raping her.

The rabbi, Bernard Freilich, 48, of Borough Park, was charged with witness intimidation and witness tampering last June after prosecutors presented evidence that the rabbi had gone to the woman's home in April and warned her that she would ''end up in the cemetery'' if she testified against her father.

During the jury trial in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, the prosecutors tried to show that Rabbi Freilich had been close friends with the father of the young woman, who told the Brooklyn district attorney's office that she was raped in 1997. Rabbi Freilich's lawyer, Peter R. Schlam, contended that his client was not friends with the man and thus had no motivation to have threatened her.

Two lawyers, George S. Meissner and Richard Finkel, and three other men continue to face charges of witness tampering; they are suspected of trying to prod the woman's husband into dropping charges. Another rabbi, Pinchas Shor, is facing charges of having threatened the woman. The woman's father is awaiting trial.


Da & Staff Draw Fire From Rabbis
By Bob Liff
New York Daily News - Wednesday, March 08, 2000

Leaders of Brooklyn's Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities lashed out at District Attorney Charles Hynes yesterday, one day after Borough Park Rabbi Bernard Freilich was acquitted on charges of witness tampering.

"This was a bunch of hatred, anti-Semitism, pure politics without a penny of merit," Rabbi Leib Glanz, a leader in Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidim, said of Hynes' decision to bring the case against Freilich. "He should investigate everyone in his office who brought this case."

Freilich, 48, was acquitted on charges he threatened a couple in an attempt to get them to drop sexual abuse charges against the wife's father. His indictment last year sent shock waves through Borough Park, where Freilich serves as a key liaison with political leaders as well as the city police and is a special assistant to the State Police.

Five other men, including the father of the alleged sexual abuse victim and two prominent lawyers, also face witness tampering charges in cases which appear to be undercut by Freilich's acquittal.

Rabbis' Ruling May Nix Bid To Indict Suspect in Kid-Sex Rap
by Al Guart
New York Post, Saturday, March 11, 2000

A panel of Orthodox rabbis cleared a Brooklyn rabbi of molesting a 7-year-old boy -- a move that might keep witnesses from the grand jury probing him, The Post has learned.

The panel, reportedly headed by Manhattan Rabbi David Feinstein and two rabbis from Brooklyn and two from upstate Monsey, cleared Bobover Rabbi Solomon Hafner on Thursday evening of any wrongdoing, sources said.

Hafner, 40, was charged last January with sexually abusing a developmentally disabled boy. A grand jury is hearing evidence in the case.

Leading Bobover Rabbi Chaim Tauber was caught on tape yesterday discussing the panel's ruling and predicting it might have an impact on Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' grand-jury probe of the charges.

"They came out with a resolution that Rabbi Hafner is clean as a whistle," Tauber said on a tape reviewed by the Post.

Asked about the effect the ruling would have on potential witnesses, Tauber said, "They have nothing to cooperate with. They have nothing to say.

There is no one coming forward to blame."

Tauber could not be reached yesterday. His wife confirmed such a conversation took place but was surprised it had been taped.   

The ruling of a Beit Din -- a rabbinical court -- holds sway over members of Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities, even more than secular authorities.

It is also seen by some as a means of trying to influence Hynes, who has been under fire from parts of the Jewish community for charging another rabbi with witness-tampering.  
Last week, Hynes' office lost the case against Bernard Freilich, who was charged with threatening a couple to drop sexual-abuse charges.

    "My concern is that actions like this might put a damper on rabbis and others in the community from coming forward with allegations such as this," said lawyer Michael Lesher, who revealed the rabbinical court's ruling to The Post.

"I would like to know what evidence they had and what significance this is supposed to have while a grand jury is pending," Lesher said.

"I am not at liberty to talk about this," Rabbi Feinstein said.

Orthodox Jews, Angered Over Recent Cases, Up in Arms Against Brooklyn D.A. - Hynes and His `Haman'
by Rebecca Segall
Village Voice - March 15 - 21, 2000

Influential Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn are calling for the removal of District Attorney Charles J. Hynes following the acquittal last week of Bernard Freilich, a prominent Hasidic rabbi, on charges of witness tampering. Coming in the wake of a grand jury's failure to indict four cops accused in the killing of Gidone Busch in Boro Park last year, the Freilich prosecution is seen as the latest in a series of wrongs directed against the Orthodox community.

In the Freilich case, an immigrant couple, Moshe Israel and Anna Shapiro, alleged that the popular Boro Park rabbi—who until his arrest was also a special assistant to the state police—threatened to have them killed unless they dropped allegations of incest and rape against Ms. Shapiro's father.

"Hynes went after Freilich with a vengeance," says Rabbi Leib Glanz, a leader of the Satmar Hasidic community, referring to the D.A.'s decision to assign two top deputies, Michael Vecchione and Jay Shapiro—his lead prosecutor on death penalty cases—to the Freilich case.

In a dramatic response to Freilich's acquittal, about 2000 Boro Park residents attended a celebration in his honor on Saturday at the Satmar Hasidic shul. On Sunday, the head rabbis of each ultra-Orthodox sect in Boro Park met with Freilich, and in speech after speech referred to him and their community as having survived "persecution and prosecution."

"This is a man with 25 years of service in the public life of Boro Park," Rabbi Glanz told the Voice. "He was instrumental in creating Tomche Shabbos," an organization that feeds thousands of Hasidic families each week.

During the trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Ms. Shapiro testified that Freilich had come to the couple's Boro Park home last April on the day before she was to give grand jury testimony, and told them that if she testified they would wind up "in the cemetery." After she appeared, she alleged, Freilich showed up again and pledged to make good on the threat. Freilich maintains he has never spoken to the couple.

Since his acquittal, Freilich—who friends say once got up at sunrise to help Hynes's campaign—warns the D.A. of political trouble ahead. "The community doesn't trust Hynes anymore," Freilich says, "and he's obviously going to have problems regaining their support."

As family members celebrated Freilich's victory, an uncle gave a short vort (talk) over kosher Chinese cuisine: "This month is Purim, the holiday that commemorates Jewish freedom from their Persian persecutor, Haman. Today, the wicked Haman has once again been defeated by the pious Mordechai—this time Freilich." One way to interpret the analogy, he explained, is that "the prosecutor, Vecchione could be Haman, while Hynes, his enabler, is the King."

"I will not be excited to support Hynes again," Glanz told the Voice. "It's unlikely that anyone running against him will be worse."

In a March 10 editorial, the ultraconservative Jewish Press declared: "What bewilders us is the alacrity with which D.A. Hynes indicts persons such as Rabbi Freilich, which is in sharp contrast to his categorical reluctance to [indict the] police officers who shoot a Jew dead on the streets of Boro Park. In our view, there is something very wrong in the way business is conducted in the Brooklyn D.A.'s office."

"I'll put it to you this way," says Reb Avraham, a prominent Hasidic activist who goes only by that name, "regarding the Busch case, the Boro Park community is more furious with Hynes than they are with Giuliani. Hynes was supposed to oversee a fair investigation," but failed to indict the four cops involved in the shooting of Busch, 31, in Boro Park.

Doris Busch Boskey, Busch's mother, alleges: "Hynes never had any intention of getting an indictment, and he didn't even pursue the possibility of lesser charges. I hope my son's ghost hangs heavy over Hynes, Giuliani, and Police Commissioner Howard Safir as a constant reminder of his senseless murder and the lack of accountability and justice."

Raphael Eisenberg, a witness to the Busch shooting who testified at the grand jury hearing at which the officers were cleared, told the Voice that the D.A.'s office seemed to be looking for any minor discrepancy to invalidate testimonies. "Hynes's career is dependent on his popularity among the police," he asserted.

Reb Avraham maintains that anti-Hynes feelings are now so strong that many Orthodox Jews would join with African Americans—"two communities that have been wronged by Hynes"—to elect a black moderate. "He did some good, but it's over now what with the legacy of Busch, Freilich, and other cases."

Avraham translates the last line of a full-page editorial in the March 10 edition of Nayis Baricht (News Report), a major Yiddish-language paper: ". . . perhaps the time has come for [Hynes] to bring his political career to an end and retire while it can still be said that the good of his administration outweighs the bad."

According to many ultra-Orthodox Jews, there has been much good. For the last decade Hynes has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Brooklyn's Orthodox communities. Henna White, a Lubavitch woman who serves as Hynes's liaison to the Jewish community, points to what she sees as culturally sensitive preventive programs for pedophiles, batterers, and drug users that Hynes's office has initiated over the last two years.

"Hynes is a very caring D.A.," she maintains, "and the community knows it. The recent incidents are not going to influence Boro Park's feelings toward Hynes." White says she was particularly impressed by the way Hynes handled the Crown Heights riots.

However, following the Freilich case, Hasidic leaders who attended the trial are alleging that one of Hynes's aides made anti-Semitic comments during his summation. Last week, the Jewish Press promised to print portions of the summation—which is currently being transcribed—in upcoming issues, allowing readers to "judge for themselves the appropriateness of some of his comments." Last year in another controversial case that left the Orthodox community in a state of fury, the same aide allegedly made comments in private to a prominent rabbi and to his lawyer that were construed as anti-Semitic. The lawyer on that case, Roger Adler, told the Voice, "I was shocked when the aide made comments that sounded like more personal attacks on my client than intellectual discourse regarding his innocence.

After Freilich was indicted last year, Orthodox leaders reached out to black Brooklyn assemblyman Clarence Norman—a close friend of Hynes's—beseeching him to share their concerns with the D.A. The Hasidic community has made other unorthodox alliances regarding Hynes. Park Avenue Synagogue rabbi David Lincoln wrote to Hynes asking why he took such an aggressive stand against Freilich, whom he described as "an outstanding man." Lincoln told the Voice that Hynes has spoken at his synagogue at least once, "but I think he has lost some credibility over this matter."

Andrew Stettner, executive director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, agrees. "We are disappointed with the D.A. Across the board in the Jewish world—and in the Asian and black communities—there is a widespread feeling of injustice." JFREJ has been organizing events at which secular and religious participants have united in support of petitioning Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the Busch case.

In the aftermath of the Busch and Diallo cases, the United Jewish Appeal's Young Lawyers Committee met two weeks ago with Reverend Calvin Butts of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church and Gidone Busch's brother Glenn Busch, a New York-based lawyer. "In my brother's case, Hynes never indicted," Busch told the group. "We need independent prosecutors in police brutality cases."

On March 5, Congressman Jerrold Nadler reproved attendees at a UJA professional breakfast in Manhattan for not putting more pressure on the Justice Department to help the Busch family, implicitly criticizing Hynes's office.

"There are certainly questions that have gone unanswered," he said, such as, "What went wrong in this investigation?"


Brooklyn rabbi acquitted
JTA - March 16, 2000

NEW YORK (JTA) -- A leading rabbi in Brooklyn was acquitted of having made death threats against a woman who had accused her father of rape.

Five witnesses still face witness-tampering charges in the case in which Rabbi Bernard Freilich was found innocent. The woman's father still must stand trial on the rape charges.


Silence of the Lam
by Kristen Lombardi
Village Voice - July 25th, 2006 

Accused of sexually abusing young boys, a Brooklyn rabbi lit for Israel 22 years ago. Now one alleged victim wants him brought back for trial.

Out of the shadows: Abe asked the Brooklyn D.A. to reopen the case against Rabbi Mondrowitz.

Abe vividly remembers that wall. The "bragging wall," as he's come to call it, was crammed with certificates and diplomas. He remembers fixating on that wall as the Hasidic psychologist advised him on how to be a good boy. He fixated on it, too, when the psychologist sat beside him, the man's hand shoved down his pants, stroking Abe's genitals.

Abe was eight years old, the defiant son of a devout Orthodox Jewish family who was sent to the child psychologist in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Every Sunday for four months in 1984, he'd go for counseling in the modest house on 60th Street. Sessions started with talk of his behavior—his mischief at home, his disobedience at yeshiva. Goals were set, rewards promised. Then, Abe alleges, the psycho- logist's hand would be in his underwear.

"He would fondle and play with my genitals," says Abe, now a thirtyish businessman not willing to publish his last name. For this former Borough Park resident, whose Orthodox faith taught him to revere elders, the encounters were devastating. "I felt very odd, ashamed. I didn't know what to think."

Abe hid the abuse for two decades, not telling a soul, yearning to get on with life. Until, in May, he discovered what had happened to the man he claims molested him: He got away.

That child psychologist was Avrohom Mondrowitz, Abe says, the same one charged with sexually abusing four Brooklyn boys in February 1985. Once a popular radio host whose Orthodox audience had known him as "Rabbi," Mondrowitz skipped town before police could arrest him. He surfaced later in Israel, where he's lived for two decades. (Mondrowitz, now 58 and reportedly in Jerusalem, could not be reached for comment.)

Abe isn't one of those four boys. He stopped his sessions in the summer of 1984, never to see Mondrowitz again. All these years, he's had no idea his alleged abuser was indicted for molesting kids, on charges that included sodomy. Abe learned of the outstanding case from a mention in a May 22 New York article about an ultra-Orthodox rabbi accused of sexual abuse.

Seeing the name in print left Abe stunned. He went online, discovering postings about the self-styled rabbi on sites for Jewish survivors of sexual abuse. Reeling, he contacted an attorney. And last month, he identified himself as a victim to the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

Explains Abe, "I could tell this guy was guilty as heck and I had to do something. He needs to be brought to justice."

The D.A.'s office confirms that Abe appeared at its Jay Street headquarters in June. Prosecutors interviewed him and recorded his complaints. Hynes can do little about the allegations because they fall outside the five-year statute of limitations for sex offenses, according to Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the sex crimes bureau. All Hynes can do is try to use Abe's testimony as supporting evidence against Mondrowitz at trial.

Jaus maintains that Hynes is still pursuing the 1985 case. The indictment against Mondrowitz is pending; her bureau remains in touch with the original victims, now in their thirties.

"We stand ready, willing, and able to prosecute him for his heinous crimes," Jaus states. "If he returns to this country, we would arrest him. We would prosecute him. We would do everything we could to achieve justice in this case."

But there's a lot more Hynes could be doing to achieve justice, it seems. The one person who can reopen the push for extradition is the Brooklyn D.A.; he calls the Justice Department, Justice calls State, State calls Israel. That's how it works. Michael Lesher, the New Jersey attorney who represents Abe, believes Hynes could force Mondrowitz to stand trial, if only Hynes would take a more aggressive stance. Past efforts to extradite Mondrowitz failed only because of a technicality. Under a 1962 treaty, the United States and Israel have agreed "reciprocally to deliver up persons found in its territory who have been charged with . . . offenses mentioned [and] committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the other." This U.S.-Israel extradition treaty lists 31 crimes, including rape. You might think the sodomy charges against Mondrowitz would fit that category. In 1985, though, Israeli law defined rape narrowly as "having sexual intercourse with a woman without her free consent." Oral and anal raping of boys—among the acts of which Mondrowitz is accused—weren't crimes by Israeli standards.

Today, that loophole has been all but closed. Israel has amended its rape law to recognize males as potential victims, making the act of forcible sodomy a crime punishable by 20 years in prison. Lesher argues the change opens the door to revisit the case. "In theory," he says, "there's no reason for Hynes not to request extradition."

Extradition lawyers second his opinion. Richard Bierschbach, who teaches criminal law at Cardozo Law School and who has worked on such cases, tells the Voice, "I think he would be extraditable now." Changing the law, he says, effectively changed the treaty. Courts have ruled that modifications to treaties can be applied retroactively, without violating a fugitive's due-process rights. "You can say with a fair degree of confidence that sodomy is now an extraditable offense."

Even Mondrowitz's attorney suggests that extradition isn't out of the question. Reached in his Tel Aviv office, David Ofek says he didn't believe the charges against his client when defending him in the 1980s, and he doesn't now, calling them "all lies." Mondrowitz has not been charged with a crime in Israel. Nor has anyone accused him of child molestation there. In a heavy accent, Ofek adds, "I found him to be a marvelous and gentle person, and I don't think he's touched a child."

Still, Ofek acknowledges that sodomy is a crime equal to rape in Israel—one that, in general, is extraditable. "It's a very serious crime," he says, "and we don't like people like that."

So does that mean his client could be extradited? "After 20 years," he tells the Voice, "try to do it."
Mondrowitz was a celebrity to start, a Hasidic Frasier of sorts, hosting the call-in program Life Is for Living at the now defunct WNYN radio station, doling out advice over the airwaves. But in a five-page criminal indictment, prosecutors painted Mondro-witz as an insatiable abuser who allegedly preyed on four boys, ages nine to 15, over four years. The 13 counts against him include eight of sexual abuse in the first degree, five of sodomy in the first degree.

The indictment may tell only a fraction of the story, says Sal Catalfumo. Now retired, he was the main sex crimes detective who investigated Mondrowitz for four months beginning in November 1984, when the Brooklyn South precinct got an anonymous tip about a rabbi. "There were a lot of kids and a lot of allegations," he says.

Catalfumo identified about a dozen victims to then Brooklyn D.A. Elizabeth Holtzman, whose office pressed charges on the four strongest cases. He had interviewed dozens more, he says. Initially, investigators had suspected Mondrowitz singled out Orthodox Jewish children who attended his special-education class at a Foster Avenue yeshiva or his child-counseling practice on 60th Street. Catalfumo says he ended up discovering victims from Italian Catholic families living on the same street as Mondrowitz did. Some served as altar boys at a nearby church. Others played with his seven kids. Two were prepubescent sons of Catalfumo's former high school classmate.

"Children told me and my partner that he would be molesting them in one room while their parents would be waiting in the next," Catalfumo recalls. When police searched the office, he says, they uncovered child pornography in the desk drawers.

By the time police had drawn up an arrest warrant, in December 1984, Catalfumo says, "The guy was gone. He escaped, and he's never had to face the music." All these years later, the former investigator cannot quite put this unresolved case behind him. He cannot quite forget about those, like Abe, who claim to be victims.

Confides Catalfumo, "Personally, I'd like to catch this guy. He shouldn't be able to evade prosecution for the rest of his life."

The Mondrowitz case has also haunted Abe's attorney. Lesher's made a lonely campaign out of researching it, filing freedom-of-information requests to obtain classified records. Beginning in 1999, he spent two years collecting documents from the U.S. State and Justice departments chronicling the feds' battle to extradite the fugitive—a battle that stops in 1993, courtesy of Hynes. Lesher shared his files with the Voice for this article. (The Justice Department declined to comment on the case, referring questions to State; its spokesperson refused even to speak generally about the U.S.-Israel extradition treaty.)

The paper trail starts just as the indictment was about to come down. In January 1985, according to the records, D.A. Holtzman's office began pushing the feds to bring Mondrowitz back to Brooklyn for trial, calling the Justice Department. Two months later, her office made a formal request for "the provisional arrest in Israel of Avrohom Mondrowitz." Prosecutors sent along materials for extradition in September, and kept in contact with their federal counterparts for the next two years. Internal records suggest that Washington officials felt substantial pressure from Holtzman.

"Natives of Brooklyn are becoming restless," reads one February 1986 memorandum, "and we are receiving calls from Kings County District Attorney's Office."

Another cable, dated November 1986, reports that the Israeli official on the case "has from time to time been in telephonic communication directly with the prosecutor's office in New York City to discuss the matter."

Yet another, from March 1987: "Relay the gist of this development to prosecuting attorney handling this case [who] had phoned on February 17."

Now a Manhattan attorney specializing in government relations, Holtzman declined to discuss her office's efforts to seek extradition. "I can tell you that we didn't sit on cases like that in my office," she says.

Still, these early requests were stymied. As early as 1985, Israeli officials had informed the U.S. that rape, under Israeli law, didn't cover sodomy. "The Mondrowitz case as presented cannot be acted upon under the terms of the existing U.S.-Israel extradition agreement," states an April 1985 cable.

Federal officials got creative and asked Israel to consider expelling Mondrowitz, then an American citizen on a tourist visa. For years, the case sat in a kind of legal limbo.

And then, in February 1987, after a change in leadership, the Israeli Interior Ministry ordered Mondrowitz deported to Brooklyn. Ofek appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, asking for a stay and seeking access to the U.S. extradition package. It included four affidavits from John Doe victims. It also included a letter, purportedly written by a Borough Park social worker, charging that Mondrowitz had infected 28 boys with HIV/AIDS. The claim would be stunning now; back then, it was made more so by the fact that so many people didn't understand the virus.

"When you say, 20 years ago, that the man had infected children with AIDS, it means that the man would kill children," Ofek says. There were no drug cocktails in 1987. Not many hospitals in Israel could administer an HIV test. Eventually, Ofek says, his client found one. The results came back negative. The court threw out the deportation order. "The United States wanted extradition and the Israeli government wanted to deport him—and I stopped it."
To hear Hynes's office tell it now, extradition represents the one barrier to prosecuting this case. Just last May, Jaus says, her bureau reviewed its files and consulted with Israeli legal authorities, as well as federal officials. The verdict? "Under the current treaty," she reports, "he is charged with a non- extraditable offense."

Or not. In 1988, Israel amended its rape law to cover the act of homosexual rape. Internal federal letters make note of the change, urging a second look at extradition.

"An amendment to the Israeli penal code . . . presents us, we believe, with an opportunity to reopen the extradition case of Avrohom Mondrowitz," reads one March 1988 telegram from the American embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Interestingly, no records show that federal officials called Holtzman to relay the news. And there is nothing to suggest that her office was keeping abreast of the developments, or even knew about the change. Just when the U.S. may have gained proper grounds to extradite Mondrowitz, the paper trail fades.

But if Holtzman missed a key opportunity, Hynes has apparently plain sat on the case. He became the D.A. in 1990. In the federal file, there is no record of any activity from Hynes on the matter until 1993, when Justice officials called his office. That's when he all but dropped the case—approving a decision to end extradition attempts for good.

As one September 1993 Justice Department letter details, prosecutors "contacted our office and advised that they would not be pursuing the case any further at this time."

"Hynes has never been hot to extradite Mondrowitz," charges Lesher. Why would Hynes allow a fugitive to evade prosecution through an old loophole, especially when a new victim has come forward to testify? "It's a compelling argument," observes Mary- ellen Fullerton, who teaches international criminal law at Brooklyn Law School. "If I were the Brooklyn D.A., I'd consider it."

Bruce Zagaris, an extradition lawyer in Washington, D.C., notes that the U.S.-Israel treaty is being updated, and that the new protocol would make it even easier to deliver up someone, like Mondrowitz, whose alleged acts haven't fallen neatly into the list of specified offenses. The protocol would replace the list with a provision defining any offense extraditable "as long as the crime is punishable by one year or more and as long as it's a crime in both countries."

So, Zagaris offers, "Yes, I'd say this guy is extraditable. And under this new protocol, there is even more of a chance that he could be."

At the very least, argues Bierschbach, the Cardozo professor, "you cannot flat-out say that he's not extraditable. You can make the argument, but it's weak."

Even so, Hynes spokesperson Jerry Schmetterer maintains, flatly: "After reviewing the files and consulting with authorities, our position remains that under the current treaty, Mondrowitz cannot be extradited. . . . He was charged with sodomy and the treaty has changed. It's our position this change is not retroactive."

Told that experts say otherwise, he snaps, "That's fine. You write your story. This is the position of the district attorney."

Maybe Hynes has his own reasons for not pushing extradition. In Brooklyn politics, the Orthodox ommunity can wield considerable influence. Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf explains, "They vote, and they vote in large numbers often." He estimates that the Orthodox population accounts for some 30 percent of the borough's electorate, from Williamsburg to Crown Heights, Borough Park, Flatbush, and Midwood. Especially in ultra-Orthodox areas, rabbis tend to pick candidates and congregants cast votes accordingly.

"The rabbis are very important because they tell their followers who to get behind," says Sheinkopf. For a politician, he says, that means "you have to play to them."

Hynes has worked hard to court the community over the years. In 1990, he became the first D.A. in the city to convene a Jewish advisory council, which kept leaders abreast of cases involving Jewish defen-dants or complainants. The council is now defunct, says Schmetterer, replaced by the office's full-time liaison to the Hasidic community, Henna White, herself a Lubavitcher. (He refused to let the Voice interview White for this article, saying, "It wouldn't be her place to talk about this case.") Hynes has been commended for launching such initiatives as Project Eden, a Hasidic-sanctioned program that reaches out to ultra-Orthodox victims of domestic violence.

Aaron Twerski, the dean of Hofstra Law School and a former council member, describes Hynes's relationship to the Orthodox community as "quite positive." He explains, "Hynes is a presence in the community. He's been responsive."

But Hynes has bumped up against the community before. The most dramatic example came in 1999, when the D.A.'s office charged a prominent Hasidic rabbi named Bernard Freilich with witness tampering and intimidation for allegedly making death threats against an Orthodox woman who was to testify in a sex-abuse case. The community reacted with fury, organizing demonstrations, accusing Hynes of anti-Semitism. Freilich wound up acquitted at a 2000 trial.

Lesher says the D.A. has a habit of backing down from prosecutions that Orthodox rabbinical leaders would rather handle themselves. He has researched two instances where the D.A. initiated criminal proceedings against accused Hasidic abusers, only to let them fizzle. In each, he notes, "it was community opposition that spelled the difference."

With Mondrowitz, the Orthodox community hasn't exactly clamored for justice. No one dared talk publicly about the scandal when it broke. Catalfumo says rabbis refused to answer questions, parents refused to file complaints. Even those who wanted to see Mondrowitz punished—or dead—wouldn't cooperate with authorities, the detective says, for fear their kids would become tainted by a trial.

Catalfumo doubts the D.A. would do anything to upset the Orthodox community today, and he doubts the community would want to revisit the case. "Let's face it, I don't think they're interested in seeing this surface again," he says. Indeed, Orthodox rabbis and politicians who remember the Mondrowitz case declined to talk about it with the Voice. One Borough Park resident with ties to the same Hasidic sect as Mondrowitz offered this opinion: "Once a case has been put to sleep, it's best to leave it alone."

Twerski, of Hofstra, advocates "zero tolerance" in the community for sexual abuse. But when told about the newly vocal Mondrowitz victim and his desire to reopen the case, Twerski replies, "I don't know what to say about that. That's an old, old case and I'm not going to comment on it."

Jaus, for her part, bristles at the suggestion of special treatment. In 2000, her bureau got word from State officials that Mondrowitz was returning to the States. It contacted the original four victims. It had D.C. police ready to arrest him. He never showed up.

"If we heard this information again, we'd do the same thing," she states.

Those words offer little consolation to Abe. Sitting in the dining room at his attorney's suburban home, Abe hunches over the table, his arms across his chest, his eyes on his Blackberry, as he relays what he told prosecutors on June 7. How Mondrowitz had begun molesting him during a counseling session one day, and wound up making it routine. How the psychologist had even invited him upstairs, and fondled him there.

Abe had hoped his testimony would inspire Hynes to push for extradition, he says. "I came away with the realization that my experience is a footnote in a case the D.A. won't do anything about."

At least, Abe believes, not without incentive. So on June 24, he contacted an anonymous blogger known as Un-Orthodox Jew, who has posted controversial diatribes about sexual abuse and cover-up in the Hasidic world. Abe posted his own entry, writing:

"MONDROWITZ ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! Has anyone contacted you as being a victim of Avrohom Mondrowitz? . . . There is renewed interest in this case & . . . I am trying to find out if other victims have also recently come forward so that we can pool our resources & pressure the DA's office."

So far, he's received little response, though two Orthodox Jewish men who claim to be victims of Mondrowitz have contacted the Voice, expressing a desire to bring him back.
To Abe, it all seems so upside down the way Hynes didn't push for extradition in 1993, the way he won't now. That his alleged abuser can live in Israel, his whereabouts known, yet run around scot-free, seems almost as bad as the abuse.

As Abe confides, "That makes it seem like a big slap in the face by the D.A."


Brooklyn, NY - Rabbi Bernard Freilich Hugs DA Charles Hynes Who Prosecuted Him
Vos Iz Neias - May 1, 2007

Brooklyn, NY - A source who attended a $1,000-a-head fundraiser last night at the Rose Castle in Williamsburg for Rep. Ed Towns witnessed a double-take moment when he spotted Hasidic Rabbi Bernard Freilich hugging the very man who prosecuted him in a death threat case in the 1990s - Kings County DA Charles Hynes.

Freilich was aquitted of felony charges of witness tampering in 2000. Hynes had accused him of making death threats against a young woman who accused her father of raping her, ostensibly in an effort to get her to drop the charges.

Hynes’prosecution of Freilich angered the Orthodox Jewish Community, which called for his removal after the rabbi was cleared.

The event for Towns was hosted by Satmar Rabbi Leib Glanz, who is Towns’ finance chair and executive director of the United Talmudical Academy, a nonprofit.

According to my source, the attendees includes: Two potential mayoral candidates (Weiner and Thompson), one potential comptroller candidate (Weprin), and at least one other Congressman (Meeks).

Mayor Bloomberg was touted on the invite to this event, but he didn’t show up. According to a Bloomberg aide, the mayor was never scheduled to attend. This discrepency is evidently the source of some disagreement in the Satmar community, and since I don’t know enough about it, I’m going to leave it at that.


Albany, NY - Rabbi Bernard Freilich Honoring Fallen Troopers
Vos Iz Neias - May 20, 2007

Albany, NY - The hard work and service of fallen, injured and active state troopers was recognized last week by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Acting State Police Superintendent Preston Felton.

More than 50 honorees were recognized for bravery, investigative persistence, police education, traffic safety and community service during the New York State Police 31st Annual Awards Day Ceremonies and Memorial Service at the state police academy in Albany. 

“The men and women of the New York State Police represent the best of what it means to be a New Yorker. They are devoted and dedicated to duty and the service of the public,” Spitzer said. “We owe them all our thanks, support, gratitude and respect.”

Families and friends gathered for a memorial service for the fallen troopers outside of the academy, featuring a live-fire salute and a helicopter flyover. Rabbi Bernard Freilich gave the benediction honoring the fallen troopers.
“Bless those who have fallen, so others can stand,” he said of the fallen troopers. “They are a beacon of light for all those assembled here today.” [Legislative Gazette]
U/D 13:38

Rabbi Freilich Confirmed this morning to VIN, that he gave the benediction, He also added that the new NY State Police Superintendent Preston Felton, is very appreciative, helpful, and understating to Jewish community’s issues.


New York State Police Superintendent Visits Satmar Community
Satmar News - June 8, 2010

Newly-appointed New York State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt visited Williamsburg last night, where he met with the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, Rav Zalman Leib Teitelbaum Shlita.

The Superintendent had flown by chopper from Albany to Brooklyn – as he was honored by State Senator Eric Adams, at a gathering of many politicians and community leaders just prior to visiting Williamsburg. Senator Adams then accompanied the Superintendent on his visit to Williamsburg.

Upon his arrival at the home of the Satmar Rebbe, Superintendent Corbitt was greeted by the Rebbe and other community leaders, including Rabbi Sol Perelstein, vice-president of the Satmar congregation. Rabbi Bernard Freilich, special assistant to the Superintendent of the NY State Police, Rabbi Abe Friedman, Community Liaison to the NYPD, Rabbi Simcha Bernath, Rabbi Joel Gold Chaplain of Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, Rabbi Moshe David Niederman of United Jewish Org. and others, who congratulated Superintendent Corbitt on his appointment by Governor David Paterson and welcomed him to his new position as head of the New York State Police and its more than 7,000 sworn members and 1,000 civilian staff.

Superintendent Corbitt received a Bracha from the Rebbe, who wished him the best of luck and success in all future endeavors.


Rabbi wearing a badge not a police officer
Activities of a politically appointed $100,730 State Police "special assistant" questioned
By BRENDAN J. LYONS Senior Writer
Times Union - Monday, March 7, 2011

Rabbi Bernard Freilich - Not a cop!

NEW YORK -- Behind the wheel of his dark-colored SUV, Bernard Freilich could pass for a cop.

In fact, people close to Freilich say at times he's presented himself as one.

His black GMC is equipped with flashing emergency lights, a police radio, siren, a State Police placard on the dashboard and special license plates that say "official."

In his pocket Freilich carries a State Police employee-identification card, and occasionally he wears a gold State Police badge on a lanyard that hangs from his neck. But where he got the badge is anyone's guess.

Freilich is not a police officer. He's a rabbi paid $100,730 annually as a politically appointed State Police "special assistant," a job he's had since Gov. George Pataki gave him the title in March 1995. Freilich's job, in part, is to serve as a "community liaison" to the Hasidic Jewish community, according to a job description on file with State Police.

But in a period of government austerity some are questioning whether Freilich, 59, is a necessary asset to the State Police. Meanwhile, in a Brooklyn neighborhood where Freilich lives, his police-like credentials have sparked allegations he parks illegally and harassed motorists who believed he was a cop.

Since being appointed during Pataki's inaugural year, Freilich has held his job through the administrations of Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, and now Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo's father, Mario, first assigned a rabbi to the State Police payroll, but Andrew Cuomo has pledged to stem unnecessary hiring. Some former troopers said Freilich's job should get a hard look.

"He shows up, but it's really just to keep people from saying he isn't around," said State Police Lt. Keith Forte, who retired from the agency last August after a 25-year career. "This guy's sole purpose is to put forth a face for the Jewish community, and he has no real purpose with the State Police."
Forte was in charge of recruiting troopers. He worked with Freilich at the State Police's New York City headquarters on Randall's Island. Forte said he believes Freilich has kept his job because "in a nutshell, he gets votes for the governor."

"It's a political position," Forte said. "They always appoint a liaison to the State Police, and that person's job is to handle all Jewish-related affairs in the areas where Hasidic families reside ... but why is the Catholic priest or my reverend or my pastor not part of the State Police like this guy? No one else's community gets that same respect."

Aside from Freilich's murky job duties there are allegations he may have, on occasion, acted as if he were a trooper.

State Police officials said last week they did not issue Freilich a badge. Freilich said they gave it to him in 1995. The agency has a policy against issuing so-called "honorary" badges.

A former State Police superintendent, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said the State Police would not have issued Freilich a badge. The badge Freilich wears is blank where there are normally serial numbers indicative of an authentic shield that's unique to each sworn trooper.

An agency spokesman also said they did not sanction the installation of emergency lights and a siren in Freilich's vehicle. The government license plates on his SUV are registered to Kiryas Joel, a Jewish enclave in Orange County that's exclusive to people of Hasidic faith.

A spokesman for Kiryas Joel, which has 7,400 residents and strong political ties to state and federal officials, as well as the State Police, said Freilich is "not employed by the village." The spokesman, Aron Schreiber, who identified his title as "customer relations," offered no explanation for how Freilich obtained license plates registered to the municipality. Freilich lives in Brooklyn.

Bernard Freilich's Badge
A state DMV official on Monday said records related to the license plates on Freilich's vehicle are in a warehouse and that "it will probably take a couple weeks" to produce the paperwork. The Times Union filed a formal request for the information on Feb. 28 after DMV's press office said they would not produce the information without a written request.

In an interview last week, Freilich said he has Kiryas Joel government plates because he does "public relations" for the village in an unpaid volunteer position.

"I am on the village," he said. "It has nothing to do with the State Police."

On his occasional use of flashing red lights, Freilich said: "I have the permission -- only thing I go on calls is when I show up at MVAs (motor vehicle accidents) and deaths ... kidnappings or negotiations. When anybody needs any help."

Freilich attributes the criticism of him to Jewish opponents in Brooklyn's Borough Park who he said are jealous of his job and connections within the State Police. He said he works "24 hours a day" on tasks ranging from training upstate police agencies how to handle fatal accidents involving Orthodox Jews to hostage negotiations and community relations across a spectrum of religious faiths.

Certificates showing he completed courses in suicide prevention and workplace violence at the State Police Academy are pinned over Freilich's desk.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles declined to provide information regarding the license plates on Freilich's private vehicle. State Police said they did not authorize the "official" plate on Freilich's private vehicle. Law enforcement officers, including parking enforcement agencies, are known to give "courtesies" to vehicles that have official plates.

In 2008, Jewish religious leaders in Brooklyn fielded complaints from three people that Freilich used his SUV to make traffic stops of private vehicles. Freilich denies that he ever stopped anyone. "Never in my life," he said. "I know this is not legal and I'm not supposed to do that."

State Police officials said in Freilich's 16 years on the state payroll they received just two complaints against him. One involved an allegation that Freilich sped through an E-ZPass lane. He was cautioned. The second complaint was filed last year, anonymously, by a person who alleged Freilich uses his official-looking vehicle and State Police placard to park illegally, including in front of his Brooklyn residence.

Rabbi Bernard Freilich, Enabler to sex offenders
Lt. Glenn Miner, a State Police spokesman, said an internal investigation determined the complaint was unfounded. "There was nothing conclusive they could see from that," Miner said.

A person who was involved in filing the complaint said he believed they provided enough evidence to show Freilich was abusing his State Police credentials.

"He basically acts as a police officer. ... It's dangerous," said a longtime leader of a large Jewish congregation in Brooklyn's Borough Park section. He spoke on condition he not be identified. "The reason he keeps with the village (of Kiryas Joel) is to make his vehicle look more official. ... He tells everybody that his license plate is registered to the State Police."

The religious leader, who said his standing in the congregation could be imperiled if he spoke publicly against Freilich, said three people complained about being pulled over by Freilich. But the controversy was handled within their tight-knit religious community, as is customary.

In Brooklyn, where Freilich is widely known, he double-parks his vehicle, blocks fire hydrants, leaves the vehicle sitting in bus stops while shopping and sometimes parks in curbside areas that prohibit even standing vehicles, according to photographs shared with the Times Union.

There have been other controversies. In 1999 Freilich was indicted in Brooklyn on charges of intimidating a witness for allegedly threatening the life of a young woman if she testified against her father, a Russian Orthodox Jew accused of sexually abusing her for years. Freilich received strong support from his religious community and was later acquitted.

Some State Police officials said they believe Freilich has held onto his non-union job through four governors, and at a time when many state workers are facing the loss of their jobs, because top state officials and their political advisers believe Freilich can marshal votes in Jewish communities known for voting in unison behind candidates recommended by their religious leaders.

Harry Corbitt, a former State Police superintendent, said Freilich was "really not a part of our strategy sessions at division headquarters. I'm not sure how he got the position. ... I know it wasn't a position that I had any control or dominion over."

Corbitt retired from the State Police last year in the wake of a scandal involving Gov. David Paterson's handling of a staffer's domestic violence case. Corbitt said he was later approached by Jewish opponents of Freilich who wanted Corbitt to represent them on issues involving State Police. Corbitt said he wanted the job but declined due to ethical restrictions.

While he was with the agency, Corbitt said, he recalled dealing with Freilich only on issues involving Kiryas Joel and two rival factions that at times have been accused of committing violence against one another. "But from the standpoint of him being a resource to help me deal with issues anywhere else in the state they were pretty much non-existent."

Corbitt said there is a history of Jewish communities seeking ties to the State Police.

"I believe it's to ensure that their rights are protected," Corbitt said. "It's just I believe and I think several other people believe that if you're going to have religious representation to a state agency then you need to be inclusive, rotate the position."



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