Friday, January 20, 2012

Sex abuse in schools: Prosecutors say manipulation often begins with a text or email

Sex abuse in schools: Prosecutors say manipulation often begins with a text or email 
By Mary Jo Layton and Colleen Diskin
The Record - January 30, 2012

In the past three years, 23 teachers, coaches and school officials in North Jersey have been charged with or convicted of sex crimes against children. Three have been arrested this month alone. 

Statewide, nearly a dozen teachers or coaches have made headlines since the beginning of December, accused of everything from videotaping boys showering in a school locker room to having sex with teens they were chaperoning on a field trip.

"The details of some of these cases are really disturbing," said Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.

The roster of cases includes a math teacher from Hasbrouck Heights who was sentenced to probation after exchanging 11,000 sexually explicit emails with a teenage girl at his high school and a Hackensack soccer trainer who went to prison after sexually assaulting an 11-year-old student. In Teaneck, a basketball coach admitted to authorities he collected naked photos of his players.

The cases come amid the sex scandals at Penn State, Syracuse University’s basketball program and the Amateur Athletic Union. It is happening years after similar scandals rocked the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, setting off a national public discussion about trusted leaders accused of disturbing acts against children.

State crime statistics don’t track how many coaches or teachers have been accused of sexual crimes against children, but one measure indicates it’s happening more frequently: The number of teachers and administrators stripped of their licenses for sex-related offenses against children increased to 33 last year, up from 18 five years earlier, according to the state.

"I believe there are more teachers crossing the line then there were 10 years ago," said Chief Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Joseph Del Russo, a veteran of the special-victims unit that investigates sex crimes against children.

To be sure, most of these crimes are perpetrated by the child’s relative, and the number of teachers and coaches accused is a tiny fraction of the people in those fields. But the cases among teachers and coaches have triggered concerns: Are background checks protecting children; is the role of social media increasing inappropriate contact; are the boundaries between student and teacher less defined now; are pedophiles or predators more likely to seek professions that place them in contact with children?

Preventing these crimes will require more than background checks. As the most recent arrests reveal, the defendants in New Jersey have no previous incidents and would not have raised red flags. By all accounts, they were respected teachers and popular coaches who didn’t raise suspicions.

"Being a great guy, being well-liked and giving back to the community is not mutually exclusive of having a sexual relationship with a child," Del Russo said.

In the latest arrest, Scott Rubinetti, the head coach of the Lyndhurst High School football team, was charged Wednesday with sexual assault of a student. Rubinetti allegedly had a sexual relationship with a high school senior — and urged the girl to lie if questioned by police, Molinelli said when he announced the arrest.

Rubinetti was hailed as a hero last season for steering his team to their first playoff win in nearly 30 years.

Making overtures
Del Russo and other prosecutors say a significant amount of manipulation now begins with a text or email exchange, leaving any child with a cellphone or Facebook account vulnerable.

Years ago, a teacher might have "lusted from afar" for a particular teen in a history class, Del Russo said, but never acted because there was no means of contact beyond a crowded classroom.

But technology is blurring social boundaries among students and their friends — and with their teachers — in many ways. Students are trading explicit photos and racy texts among themselves as they never have before. Meanwhile, having grown up with the Internet and texting, it may not seem unusual to them to receive emails from teachers.

"In the digital age, there’s a lot more opportunity for communication and more opportunity for abuse," said Del Russo, who just won a major victory in a case that started with an email.

Clifton resident Francisco Lindo, a math teacher and wrestling coach at a Union City school, was sentenced in December to five years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault. He had sex repeatedly with a female student in his home, Del Russo said. It all started with an email.

"Lindo not only emailed her, there were text messages and video chats," Del Russo said. "We have actual video clips of him communicating with her. They were sexually explicit."
In another case, a coach and substance abuse counselor at Wayne Valley High School met his victim when she came to him to talk about her personal problems.

Jonathan J. Titmas, a girls’ softball coach, pursued the girl for weeks with text messages until she finally agreed to meet him, prosecutors said. Titmas pleaded guilty in March to charges involving the sexual relationship, served 45 days in jail and is on three years’ probation.

"There’s just no reason for a teacher to be repeatedly texting with a student," Molinelli said.
Parents must be sure their children understand the proper boundaries for interacting with their coaches, teachers and mentors, law enforcement officials said. What can start as a nice message, such as "I like your dress," can morph into something more sinister over time.

"In many of the cases, you don’t really see it happening until you’re deep in it and then it’s too late," said Daniel Watter, a Morristown psychologist.

Authorities said this is the kind of situation that happened at Becton Regional High School, where a teacher was accused of exchanging more than 11,000 sexually explicit pictures and text messages with a 16-year-old student.

Gianfranco Maucione pleaded guilty to official misconduct. At his sentencing in June, the judge said the math teacher and soccer coach, who has a master’s degree in counseling, knew "how to get inside the head of a minor."

Maucione was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to undergo sex-offender counseling.

His 16-year-old-victim described herself as bright and confident before he started sending sexually explicit pictures and text messages. She talked of her despair after other students spread rumors and blamed her for the incident.

"I was shunned by society, practically exiled and treated like less of a human from friends and teammates I had figured would stand by me," the young woman wrote in a letter the prosecutor read in court.

"I would catch people pointing at me," she wrote. Comments were posted online. When she got a part-time job, one of her new co-workers asked her, "Oh, aren’t you the one who had sex with their teacher?" she wrote.

"Ten, twenty, fifty years from now," she wrote, "will I be known as the girl who supposedly had sex with a teacher or simply for my successes?"

‘Friending’ bans
In an attempt to prevent teachers from becoming too close to students, school boards are adopting policies to guide teachers in maintaining strict professional lines in their electronic communication with students and players.

Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, estimates that 15 to 20 percent of districts now have policies that prohibit teachers from "friending" students on networks. The policies also ban teachers from giving out private cell or home numbers without district approval. All "e-contacts" with students must be made through school computer and telephone systems and communication between coaches and players should be sent to all members of a team.

"We’re really seeing the first generation of teachers who grew up with social networking," Yaple said. "What a lot of districts are finding is that what might seem acceptable to those younger teachers might not seem professional behaviors to those who have been in education for awhile."

Some districts have also warned teachers that school administrators will periodically conduct Internet searches to find out if teachers have posted inappropriate comments or materials online.

Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said he is not aware of any school districts in the state that are aggressively monitoring their teachers’ social networking sites "but I’m sure that is happening in some districts."

It is unclear whether any districts have considered searching Facebook and other postings during the hiring process.

In Glen Rock, Superintendent David Verducci said teachers, coaches and others who come in contact with students are informed of school policy to avoid emails or texts with students or communicating via social networks. When a text or call is required, staff must keep a log — a message that’s hammered into staff at orientation and training sessions throughout the year, Verducci said.

"We instruct our folks to stay away from kids in the social media for everyone’s protection," Verducci said.

A new computer system launched this year districtwide makes it even less likely for improper contact to occur. Staff, students and parents are linked into a system that provides homework assignments, grades and other vital information. Emails can still be exchanged, but these can be monitored.

"This is a side benefit," Verducci said.

The veteran educator lamented the impact the cluster of cases has had on his profession.
"I can’t tell you the intensity of my feelings about these cases," he said. "We’re grossly offended by this."

Teen victims
More than half of the 23 cases reviewed by The Record involve male teachers or coaches accused of inappropriate sexual contact with teenage female students or players.

Another four cases involved children 13 and under, including that of Carlos Merchant, a Hackensack resident and former soccer trainer at the Sports Factory in Lincoln Park, who was sentenced in May to eight years in prison. He admitted he performed a sex act on an 11-year-old girl and made an 8-year-old girl touch him inappropriately.

One woman was arrested: Patricia Gallegos, a 24-year-old substitute teacher in Moonachie, was arrested last April and accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with a 14-year-old student.

Two defendants were charged with possessing child pornography.

Eight defendants pleaded guilty and received penalties ranging from probation to 22 years in prison. Four are enrolled in Pretrial Intervention programs that could result in their charges being dropped if the program is successfully completed. The other cases are pending.

Just last month, a grand jury indicted two former Paramus Catholic High School employees on 25 counts of engaging in illegal sexual behavior. Artur Sopel, who was the school’s vice president of operations, stands accused of engaging in sexual activity with two teens during a trip to Europe. Michael Sumulikoski, a substitute teacher and assistant football coach, is accused of engaging in sexual activities with one student on the trip.

The arrests "took everybody by surprise," said Tim Smith, the father of a sophomore and vice president of fund raising for the parent association. Smith said there were "no red flags" about the two employees charged in the case.

"I think most people know that this kind of thing can happen anywhere and it has happened everywhere," Smith said.

Experts say there’s no profile of a teacher or coach who turns into an abuser.

Philip Witt, a forensic psychologist who worked more than a decade at the state prison for sex offenders, wishes "there was some way to give somebody a psychological X-ray to determine if they might be a predator. But it simply doesn’t exist," said Witt, who served on the attorney general’s sex offender risk assessment task force.

In some cases, sex abusers "seek out a position of authority for the purpose of having sex with a minor," said Witt. However, those cases are more the exception than the rule, Witt said.

The more common explanation is that a teacher or coach goes through a turbulent time — a divorce, midlife crisis, a struggle with substance abuse — and develops an inappropriate emotional connection with a minor that evolves into sexual desire, Witt said.

In Witt’s view, if the teacher or coach hadn’t worked with children, it’s likely they might never have abused.

Molinelli said the cases are disturbing because "it’s the trust issue."

"We all talk to our children about not befriending strangers, but we for the most part teach them to trust in their teachers and coaches," said Molinelli, who has coached youth baseball. "When that trust is violated, it goes against the fabric of what we teach our kids."

David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national organization, agreed.

"The betrayal is the harm," he said "It’s always devastating to the youngster."

In cases involving older teens and their teachers, "it can be more psychologically damaging because predators are often more skillful in making older kids feel complicit and consenting," he said.

Gaps in screening
The arrests have put parents on alert. School officials have been forced to reassure nervous communities. Teachers are feeling the sting of increased scrutiny.

And now law enforcement officials are warning parents of a new danger. The region has experienced a proliferation of paid coaches and trainers who work for unregulated businesses or club teams. Because they aren’t affiliated with schools or any of the major youth leagues, there’s less of a guarantee that these coaches undergo criminal background checks or are subject to rules governing their interaction with players.

It’s already happened. In West Milford, a martial arts teacher pleaded guilty last February after he was accused of coercing girls into having sex by using an oath of obedience they took as part of their training. Trent Young was tried in federal court because prosecutors said he transported the girls across state lines for the sexual activity. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

"Parents really need to be finding out as much as they can about these coaches and businesses," Molinelli said.

Robert J. Shoop, a Kansas State University professor and author, sees an uptick in the number of cases of coaches abusing players.

"There’s been a significant increase in the number of reports of coaches both in school, university and civic organizations exploiting children," said Shoop, author of "Sexual Exploitation in Schools: How to Spot It and Stop It."

"All organizations have to understand it can happen anywhere, on any team, at any school," Shoop said.

The recent arrests can give the impression of an epidemic among trusted coaches, but in reality, the cases involve a fraction of people in those fields.

"As horrendous as these cases are, they’re isolated," said John McCarthy, Montclair State University professor and co-founder of the Yogi Berra Museum’s Coaching Institute, which runs programs for North Jersey high school and recreation coaches.

"There are over 300 schools that participate in athletics in New Jersey. Because it’s a cluster of cases, it’s got everyone on alert."

The impact of the cases is enormous, experts and local coaches said.

"When athletic directors are interviewing coaches for jobs, they’re going to have a whole lot more questions," said Robert Gilbert, a co-founder of the coaching institute and professor of Exercise Science and Physical Education at Montclair State. "They’re going to make a lot more phone calls."

At coaching seminars, McCarthy and Gilbert remind coaches of proper behavior — no meetings with closed doors, no practices where spectators aren’t welcome, no compromising situations.

"This fall we didn’t even need a textbook," McCarthy said. "All we needed was the newspaper."

In the past three years, 23 teachers, coaches and school officials in North Jersey have been arrested or pleaded guilty to sex-related charges involving children. They include:

Scott RubinettiLyndhurst High School’s head football coach, was charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly having a relationship with a high school senior during the 2009-10 school year, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office announced Jan. 25. The 39-year-old Nutley resident was also charged with witness tampering. 

Kyle S. Daniw, 32, of Wayne was arrested Jan. 18 on charges of endangering the welfare of a child after authorities said he engaged in sexual conduct with a 16-year-old sophomore at Passaic Valley High School in Little Falls, where he was a history teacher and coach. 

* Joseph Greco, 27, a Park Ridge High School teacher, was arrested Jan. 7 and accused of having sex with student. Authorities said the student, who has since graduated, was in her junior or senior year of high school when the relationship began in 2010. 

Michael Sumulikoski and Artur Sopel, two former Paramus Catholic High School employees, were indicted by a grand jury Dec. 21 on 25 counts of engaging in illegal sexual behavior with four female students — three of them during a school exchange trip to Europe in February. Sopel, 31, of River Edge, is accused of engaging in sexual activity with two female students during the trip. Sumulikoski, 27, of Elmwood Park, is accused of engaging in sexual activity with one of the female students during the trip. Authorities said a fourth victim then came forward and claimed she had engaged in sexual activities with Sopel in May 2010, when she was a student at the school. 

Bruce F. Gordon, an Upper Saddle River school employee, was arrested Dec. 20 after school officials allegedly found child pornography on his computer. Gordon, the district’s director of building, grounds and maintenance, is a Wanaque resident. 

Michael Boris, a 30-year-old Lodi resident who worked for Bogota High School for seven years in several coaching and extracurricular positions, was charged Nov. 23 with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact. He was accused of having sexual conversations with several students over the Internet and inappropriate sexual contact with one student. 
Scott Van Hoven, a drama teacher at Paterson’s John F. Kennedy High School, was accused of having sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old student. Van Hoven, a Parsippany resident, was charged with sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. He was indicted in June and his case is pending. 
Derick Jerinsky, former assistant band instructor at Ramsey High School, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in June to three years in prison. He was charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child and obscenity after he allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with female high school students. 
Ilya Krakinovskiy, 28, of Fort Lee was arrested May 17, 2010, and accused of having inappropriate contact with a female student from Leonia High School, where he was working as a student teacher. He was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. He’s no longer employed at the high school and entered a Pretrial Intervention program which is scheduled to end March 29. Charges will be dropped if he successfully completes the program. 
* Patricia Gallegos, 25, of Rutherford was arrested in April and charged with endangering the welfare of a child after authorities said she engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a 14-year-old student at Robert L. Craig School in Moonachie, where she worked as a part-time substitute teacher. 
Mark C. Sorenson, a 58-year-old Clifton resident who was employed as a teacher at Paramus Catholic and also worked as a tutor, entered a two-year-long Pretrial Intervention program in March 2010, and charges will be dropped if he successfully completes the program. He was arrested in 2009 after being accused of showing photos of naked women to a girl he was tutoring, who was not a student at Paramus Catholic. 
Takuya Ichikawa, a Cliffside Park resident, was charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child after he allegedly fondled a 7-year-old boy at a Japanese cultural school. He was admitted into Pretrial Intervention, and all charges will be dropped if he successfully completes program Oct. 12.

Francisco Lindo, a Clifton resident and a math teacher in Union City, was sentenced to five years in prison in December for having an ongoing sexual relationship with a student that included some afterschool encounters at his Clifton home as well as sexually explicit video chats and texts. 
Gianfranco Maucione, 30, who taught math and coached soccer at Becton Regional High School, was sentenced to five years’ probation in June and ordered to attend sex offender counseling. Maucione pleaded guilty to official misconduct after he was accused of exchanging more than 11,000 sexually explicit pictures and texts with a 16-year-old female student. 
Carlos Merchant of Hackensack, a soccer coach at a facility in Lincoln Park, was sentenced to eight years in prison in May after he admitted performing a sex act on an 11-year-old girl and made an 8-year-old girl touch him inappropriately. He must serve 85 percent of sentence. 
* Trent Young, a West Milford martial arts teacher, was sentenced last February to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to charges that he took two female students and a third girl across state lines to have sex. Prosecutors said he coerced the girls into having sex by using an oath of obedience they took as part of their training and at other times he used force. He died in prison in November. 
Jonathan J. Titmas, a softball coach and substance-abuse counselor at Wayne Valley High School, pleaded guilty in March, served 45 days in jail, and must serve three years of probation. He was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student. 
Joseph Ponsi, 63, who worked three decades as a guidance counselor at Palisades Park Junior-Senior High School before retiring in 2004, was sentenced in March 2010 to four years’ probation. He pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of child after being accused by police of transmission and possession of child pornography. 
* Patrick DeFranco was sentenced to five years in prison in 2010 for performing a sex act on a 13-year-old male student in a classroom closet in Morris County. He must also register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. 
Adam Melzer, who coached basketball in Teaneck, was sentenced in August 2009 to three years in prison, but the sentence was suspended. He must register as a Megan’s Law offender and have no contact with families or work with youth. Melzer pleaded guilty in 2009 to endangering the welfare of children and admitted he not only collected naked photographs of players, but showed a pornographic tape starring minors to at least one child.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Case of David Zimmer

Case of David Zimmer
David Zimmer
 Locksmith - (Borough Park) Brooklyn, NY
East Elmhurst, NY

Convicted pedophile was caught taking photos of a 9-year-old female neighbor in Borough Park. 

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

  1. NYPD: Suspect Took Photos Of Young Girl In Brooklyn (01/12/2012)
  2. Cops arrest convicted pedophile for taking pics of little girl in Brooklyn
  3. Level Two Sex Offender Arrested; Police Seek More Information (01/13/2012)
  4. Police Seek Info on Arrested Sex Offender David Zimmer (01/13/2012)
  5. Police Arrested Man Molesting Children In Borough Park (01/14/2012)
  6. Brother of sex offender busted for covering up alleged sibling sex crime (01/14/2012)
  7. For Ultra-Orthodox in Abuse Cases, Prosecutor Has Different Rules (05/10/2012)

NYPD: Suspect Took Photos Of Young Girl In Brooklyn 
CBS News NY - January 12, 2012

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is asking for the public’s help in providing information about a man arrested after allegedly taking photos of a child.

On Monday, January 2, 2012 at approximately 9:15 p.m., police responded to a report of a suspicious male taking photos of a 9-year-old white girl inside of an apartment building hallway in Borough Park.

Upon arrival, responding officers located the suspect, 40-year-old David Zimmer, and arrested him at the scene.

The suspect was brought to the 66th Precinct and charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Harassment.

Anyone who knows of children that may have been in contact with Zimmer is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

All calls are strictly confidential.


Cops arrest convicted pedophile for taking pics of little girl in Brooklyn 
By John Doyle and Kerry Burke
New York Daily News - January 13, 2012

A convicted pedophile was caught taking photos of a 9-year-old girl in Borough Park and cops are trying to find out if he had illicit contact with other children.  

David Zimmer, 40 was arrested Jan. 2 for photophraphing the child in the hallway of a the Brooklyn building where they both live.

The neighborhood locksmith was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment, police said.

The picture was not lewd, but he is not supposed to have contact with children, police said.

Level Two Sex Offender Arrested; Police Seek More Information
CBS News NY - January 13, 2012

David Zimmer - Convicted Sex Offender
NEW YORK (CBS NewYork) – Police arrested a sex offender for allegedly taking pictures of a 9-year-old girl in his hallway last week, and now they are searching for other children David Zimmer may have come in contact with.

Police say Zimmer, 40, was picked up at around 9:15 p.m. after allegedly snapping shots of the girl in the hallway of Borough Park building. He faces Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Harassment charges.

Sources tell CBS 2 Zimmer is a Level 2 sex offender. He was arrested in 1998 for rape and took a plea down to sexual assault.

Police want anyone who knows of children that have come into contact with Zimmer are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). All calls are kept confidential. You can also submit your tip via their website, or by texting a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.


Police Seek Info on Arrested Sex Offender David Zimmer
by Mary Bakija
Windsor Terrace-Kensington Patch

Police are seeking the public's help for information about a man they arrested for allegedly taking photos of a 9-year-old girl.

The 66th Precinct has charged 40-year-old David Zimmer with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment for the incident they say happened on January 2 in the hallway of a Borough Park apartment building. The NYPD is now looking for anyone who knows of any children who may have been in contact with Zimmer, a registered sex offender who was arrested in 1999 for sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl.

If you know of a child who was in contact with him, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Police say all calls are strictly confidential. 


Police Arrested Man Molesting Children In Borough Park
ABC NEW NY - January 14, 2012 

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A convicted pedophile is under arrest Friday, accused of taking pictures of a 9-year-old girl in Brooklyn.

Now, detectives are scrambling to find out if he may have had illicit contact with other children.

Police say 40-year-old David Zimmer, a convicted sex offender, had taken photos of the child in the hallway of the building where they both lived on 51st Street in Borough Park.

Authorities received a call on January 2 about a suspicious man taking photos of the young girl. Zimmer was arrested on the spot and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment.
Zimmer, a neighborhood locksmith, was convicted in 1999 of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl. He is a Level 2 offender.

The suspect's brother, 37-year-old Meyer Zimmer, who lives with the suspect is charged with tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution.

Police are asking anyone who may have had contact with Zimmer to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS. 



Brother of sex offender busted for covering up alleged sibling sex crime
By John Doyle
New York Daily News - January 14, 2012

The younger brother of a convicted sex offender was busted for destroying evidence that may have implicated his brother in another sex crime, said a police source.

Myer Zimmer, 37, was arrested on Friday after he allegedly trashed clothing that police believe was evidence in an investigation into his older brother, David Zimmer.

The big bro, 40, was arrested on January 2, after allegedly photographing a nine-year-old female neighbor inside his Borough Park building.

A registered sex offender, the elder Zimmer was collered in March 1999, after he sexually abused a 10- year-old girl, according to the NY State Sex Offender Registry.


For Ultra-Orthodox in Abuse Cases, Prosecutor Has Different Rules
Ray Rivera and Sharon Otterman 
Jo Craven McGinty, Griff Palmer and Tom Torok contributed reporting
New York Times - May 10, 2012
Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, center, in his 1994 bid for attorney general, next to his wife, Patricia.
An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible. 
The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes’s authority. But the district attorney “expressed no opposition or objection,” the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, recalled. 

In fact, when Mr. Hynes held a Hanukkah party at his office in December, he invited many ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the advocacy group, Agudath Israel of America. He even chose Rabbi Zwiebel, the group’s executive vice president, as keynote speaker at the party. 

Mr. Hynes has won election six times as district attorney thanks in part to support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who lead growing communities in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Crown Heights. But in recent years, as allegations of child sexual abuse have shaken the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, victims’ rights groups have expressed concern that he is not vigorously pursuing these cases because of his deep ties to the rabbis. 

Many of the rabbis consider sexual abuse accusations to be community matters best handled by rabbinical authorities, who often do not report their conclusions to the police.
In 2009, as criticism of his record mounted, Mr. Hynes set up a program to reach out to ultra-Orthodox victims of child sexual abuse. Called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice in Hebrew), the program is intended to “ensure safety in the community and to fully support those affected by abuse,” his office said. 

In recent months, Mr. Hynes and his aides have said the program has contributed to an effective crackdown on child sexual abuse among ultra-Orthodox Jews, saying it had led to 95 arrests involving more than 120 victims. 

But Mr. Hynes has taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program — even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

This policy of shielding defendants’ names because of their religious status is not followed by the other four district attorneys in New York City, and has rarely, if ever, been adopted by prosecutors around the country. 

Some sex-crime experts and former prosecutors said the policy contributed to a culture of secrecy in ultra-Orthodox communities, which made it harder to curb sexual abuse. 

Mr. Hynes, through a spokesman, said he would not publicize information about specific accusations because he did not want to discourage victims from coming forward. But at least one ultra-Orthodox rabbi acknowledged asking him not to publicize these cases and said other rabbis had as well. 

The number of sexual abuse cases involving children being prosecuted by Mr. Hynes’s office is up sharply. But an examination by The New York Times shows that some of Mr. Hynes’s claims about the Kol Tzedek program appear to be inflated. 

Through an extensive search of court and other public records, The Times determined the names of suspects and other details in 47 of the 95 cases attributed to the Kol Tzedek program. More than half of the 47 seemed to have little to do with the program, according to the court records and interviews. 

Some did not involve ultra-Orthodox victims, which the program is specifically intended to help. More than one-third involved arrests before the program began, as early as 2007. Many came in through standard reporting channels, like calls to the police. 

While the 47 cases did include charges against camp counselors, yeshiva teachers and rabbis, they also included cases like that of a Borough Park cafe owner who was convicted of molesting a female Hispanic immigrant who worked for him. 

At least three others were of ultra-Orthodox defendants who groped women on public transportation, including one Borough Park resident accused of placing his penis on a woman’s shoulder. The woman immediately called the transit police. 

Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, center, in his 1994 bid for attorney general, next to his wife, Patricia.
Mr. Hynes would not be interviewed for this article. He has never publicly opposed the ultra-Orthodox Jewish position that a rabbi must first determine that an accusation of child sexual abuse is valid before the authorities are notified.  

His aides acknowledged that Rabbi Zwiebel informed him about Agudath’s position last summer. 

“D.A. Hynes did meet with Zwiebel and told him he wouldn’t interfere with someone’s decision to consult with his or her rabbi about allegations of sexual abuse, but would expect that these allegations of criminal conduct be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities,” said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes. 

Prosecutors in the district attorney’s office emphasized that the Kol Tzedek program, which has a hot line, a part-time social worker and links to social service agencies, demonstrated that Mr. Hynes cared deeply about the issue. 

“This is an incredible success,” said Rhonnie Jaus, chief of his sex crimes division. “I know how many cases we used to have before that. When I say a handful, I mean a handful every single year. It’s ridiculous the difference we have that I see with my own eyes between before the start of Kol Tzedek and now.” 

Asked whether the office was exaggerating the program’s impact, she said all of the victims involved took advantage of the program’s services. “Our numbers are not inflated,” she said. “If anything, they are conservative.” 

Still, some who have urged more aggressive prosecution said Mr. Hynes was too beholden to ultra-Orthodox rabbis for political support. 

Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University was one of the few victims’ advocates who attended the Hanukkah party in December. 

“Basically, I looked around the room and the message that I got is: You are in bed with all the fixers in Brooklyn,” Rabbi Blau said. “Nothing is going to change, because these people, the message they got is: These are the ones that count.” 

Potential Conflicts of Interest
David Zimmer
David Zimmer was 25 when he groped a 9-year-old girl in a garage in Borough Park, court records said. 

“She liked it,” he later told the police. 

He then took two sisters there, ages 9 and 10. In August 1998, he was accused of raping the 10-year-old, according to court documents. 

The police arrested Mr. Zimmer that year, but the case’s impact on the credibility of Mr. Hynes’s office resonates today. 

Back then, prosecutors seemed in a strong position, with a handwritten confession from Mr. Zimmer. Initially charged with more than 24 counts of sex offenses, he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse in the first degree and received five years’ probation. 

Mr. Zimmer’s lawyer was Asher White, who is married to Henna White, Mr. Hynes’s longtime liaison to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Ms. White, an adherent of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, makes $138,000 a year, more than most of Mr. Hynes’s prosecutors. 

Ms. White organizes gatherings like the Hanukkah celebration, while overseeing the Kol Tzedek program. As a result, she has dual roles: she is supposed to encourage ultra-Orthodox victims to come forward despite opposition from some rabbis, even as she tries to maintain relationships with rabbis generally. 

Ms. White and her husband declined to respond to questions about Mr. Zimmer’s case, or to disclose whether they had discussed it with each other. Prosecutors said Ms. White had no involvement, but entanglements like these have long raised questions about how Mr. Hynes handles prosecutions in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. 

Hopes that probation and treatment would lead to the rehabilitation of Mr. Zimmer were shaken when new accusations surfaced: A prosecutor this month told a judge that while working as a locksmith in recent years, Mr. Zimmer went into homes and repeatedly molested children who lived there. The police discovered that he had kept a diary detailing the many times that he had abused children, the prosecutor said. 

He pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing four girls, ages 6 to 10. He is being held on $1 million bond. Ms. Jaus said the original plea agreement was the best that the office could do because the victims’ parents did not want them to testify.  

“I have never received any pressure to do anything in a particular case,” she said. 

But the father of the first 9-year-old, who said he never knew about Mr. White’s involvement, said he would have allowed his daughter to take the stand. 

“The district attorney’s office called me and said this guy’s not 100 percent normal, so they were going to give him probation,” said the father, who asked not to be identified to protect his daughter’s identity. “If they don’t want to prosecute, what are you going to do?” 

Mr. Hynes often describes how, growing up in the only non-Jewish family in his building in Flatbush, he spent the Jewish Sabbath turning on lights for his Orthodox neighbors, who could not perform such tasks under Jewish law. 

When he was the only non-Jew in a four-way Democratic primary in his failed 1994 bid for attorney general of New York State, he placed advertisements in Jewish publications signed by more than 150 Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders. 

“I’m really the Jew in this race,” he joked to a reporter for The Jewish Week. Referring to his opponents, he said, “I probably know more Yiddish than they do combined.” 

Mr. Hynes’s attention to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has translated into votes. In 2005, when Mr. Hynes eked out a 42 percent to 37 percent victory in the Democratic primary for district attorney, he won in a landslide in several ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. In one election district in Williamsburg that is filled with Hasidic synagogues, Mr. Hynes pulled in 84 percent of the vote, according to election records. 

The relationship has not always been smooth. He angered many of his closest ultra-Orthodox Jewish supporters in 1999 when he charged Bernard Freilich, a popular rabbi, with intimidating a witness in a sexual abuse case. Rabbi Freilich was acquitted the next year. 

“I never knew of cases in which Joe Hynes bowed to community pressure,” said Aaron Twerski, former dean of the Hofstra University School of Law, who had served with Rabbi Freilich as community advisers to Mr. Hynes. “He would listen, and if there were merit, he might rethink something, but Joe’s his own man.” 

Brooklyn’s highly cloistered ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — by some estimates, more than 200,000 people, the largest outside of Israel — would present challenges for any prosecutor. Informing on a fellow Jew to a secular authority is traditionally seen as a grave sin, and victims who do come forward can face intense communal intimidation to drop their cases. 

In part for this reason, of the roughly 1,200 cases Mr. Hynes’s sex crimes unit handles each year, few until recently involved ultra-Orthodox Jews, though experts said the rate of sexual abuse in these communities was believed to occur at the same rate as in society over all. 

But even when Mr. Hynes’s office did bring cases, they often ended in plea bargains that victims and their families believed were lenient. The Jewish Week, in a 2008 editorial, described Mr. Hynes’s attitude toward these cases as “ranging from passive to weak-willed.” 

Rabbi Zwiebel of Agudath Israel defended Mr. Hynes’s record. “The D.A. has made a conscious effort to be sensitive to the cultural nuances of the different communities that he works with,” said Rabbi Zwiebel, though even he believes the names of those convicted should be publicized for the safety of the community. 

Outreach Program Formed
Mr. Hynes seemed to turn a page in 2009 when he announced the creation of Kol Tzedek.
The announcement came in the wake of criticism after a 2008 plea deal he made with Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a grade school teacher at a Flatbush yeshiva who had been the subject of sexual abuse complaints to rabbinical authorities for more than 30 years. 

In the plea deal, which at least one victim’s father opposed, Mr. Hynes reduced two felony counts of sexual abuse to a single misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. The rabbi received three years’ probation and was not required to register as a sex offender.  

“That case really got the advocacy movement rolling,” said Mark Appel, founder of Voice of Justice, an advocacy group unrelated to the district attorney’s program of the same name. “People were so angry.” 

Mr. Hynes’s aides said they had made more than 40 presentations to community members promoting Kol Tzedek. And of the few cases that yielded convictions that The Times was able to identify, the outcomes were roughly similar to cases involving offenders who were not ultra-Orthodox. Still, the new effort has not quieted the criticism. 

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor of constitutional law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, blamed Mr. Hynes for not speaking out against the ultra-Orthodox position that mandates that allegations must be first reported to rabbis. The position potentially flouts a state law that requires teachers, social workers and others to report allegations of sexual abuse immediately to the authorities. 

She said Mr. Hynes was essentially allowing rabbis to act as gatekeepers. 

“That’s exactly what the Catholic Church did, what the Latter-day Saints did, what the Jehovah’s Witnesses did,” said Ms. Hamilton, author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children.”
Victims’ rights groups say Mr. Hynes has also failed to take a strong stand against rabbis and institutions that have covered up abuse, and has not brought charges recently against community members who have sometimes pressed victims’ families not to testify. 

Ms. White, his liaison to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, said the district attorney had few options, in part because some victims declined to implicate those who threatened them, fearful that if they did, they would face even more pressure. 

“I always feel so bad for those parents, because you watch the shock on their face when they find out that their child has been abused, and then they get all of the pressure,” Ms. White said. 

Mr. Hynes’s refusal to publicize the names of people arrested through Kol Tzedek has deepened suspicions among victims’ rights groups, while winning praise from some rabbis.
“I think that’s where the rabbis put a little pressure on him,” said Rabbi Shea Hecht, an informal adviser to Mr. Hynes. “I know I went to speak to him about that. I said ‘Listen, you got to do the arrest, you go to do the investigation, but please don’t give out the names before we know if the man is guilty.’ ” 

In response to a Freedom of Information request by The Times, Mr. Hynes’s office acknowledged that in the “vast majority of cases, the disclosure of a defendant’s name would not tend to reveal the identity of the sex-crime victim.” 

But, the office said, because the ultra-Orthodox community is “very tight-knit and insular,” there is “significant danger” that disclosure would cause victims to withdraw cooperation, making prosecutions “extremely difficult, if not impossible.” 

Several former prosecutors interviewed for this article said the policy seemed to make little sense. 

“The idea is that the more information you give out, the more likely it is that victims might come forward with complaints,” said Bennett L. Gershman, a former Manhattan prosecutor who specializes in prosecutorial conduct at Pace University Law School. “So the idea that a prosecutor would conceal this kind of information strikes me as illogical, and almost perverse.” 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 15, 2012

An article on Thursday about the intimidation some ultra-Orthodox Jews encounter in their community when they come forward with allegations of child sexual abuse misspelled the surname of a rabbi who is executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization. He is Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, not Zweibel. (The error was repeated in an article on Friday about the Brooklyn district attorney, who must decide how to handle such cases.)


Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.