Hasidic leader found guilty of sexually abusing child

11 December 2012 - 14:37 By Sapa-AFP
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish counsellor in a New York Hasidic community was found guilty of repeatedly sexually abusing a girl over three years while she was in his care.

Nechemya Weberman faces up to 117 years in prison after being convicted on 59 counts. The most serious charge, “course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree” carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Weberman, a heavy-set 54-year-old with a traditional Hasidic beard and dark clothing, was led into custody after the verdict was read. He will be sentenced on January 9.

In a trial that has upended the insular community of Brooklyn followers of the Satmar branch of Hasidic Jews, the girl accuses Weberman of first abusing her in 2007, when she was 12.

The defence claimed that the girl made up the accusations to take revenge against Weberman for informing her parents that she’d revealed to him she was romantically involved with a boy — something banned in their community.

Rachel Krausz told the court this month she could never have known what would happen when she sent her daughter to Weberman for counselling sessions, given his standing and the community’s strict separation of the sexes.

The counselling sessions were ordered by the school, which had said she had behavioural problems. The principal called the girl a heretic for having an open top button on her shirt.

According to the allegations, Weberman used these counselling sessions to sexually molest the youngster, who for a long time was too scared to tell anyone.

In the public seating of the courtroom during the trial, every spot was filled with bearded men in traditional clothes or Hasidic women, several of them wearing wigs.

“The victim showed great courage to come forward in a very difficult time,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

“Hopefully, this verdict will lead to the understanding for other women that they can come forward as well.”