The highest profile case in the rash of sexual abuse allegations within Brooklyn's insular Orthodox Jewish community was hit with another disturbing twist in the courtroom yesterday. During the alleged victim's testimony against her former therapist Nechemya Weberman, who is charged with 88 counts of sexual misconduct and molestation, four Hasidic men were detained for taking pictures of the anonymous accuser. "You know about the Torah, you know about rabbinical courts. This is a civil court!" Supreme Court Justice John Ingram reportedly boomed. "Your phones will be held for possible criminal prosecution. You may wish to avail yourself of counsel." But intimidation tactics have been common in this case.
The accuser, now 17, has testified for 12 hours over three days and is expected to continue in court today. "I wanted to die rather than live with myself," she said, alleging that she was touched inappropriately and forced to perform oral sex on Weberman for three years. "I didn't know how to fight. I was numb." She visited Weberman twice a week for counseling meant to get her "back on the spiritual path."
According to the New York Post, "the alleged victim was left trembling after Weberman allegedly glared at her through a glass door to the courthouse conference room where she sat during a break in her testimony." The door has since been covered with paper.
Before the trial, four men were charged with threatening the victim's boyfriend and offering a $500,000 bribe to drop the charges. The accuser also testified that her nieces had problems at school and her father lost his business after she came forward against Weberman, an influential presence in the community.
The courtroom madness yesterday could result in charges of criminal contempt and witness intimidation against four men, identified as Lemon Juice, Abraham Zupnick, Joseph Fried, and Yona Weisman. "This is on the Internet now," the livid judge said. "It's probably streamed all over the world."
"Now we have to take all their phones, just like in a gang trial," a law-enforcement source told the Post. "It's the same thing you have with the Bloods or the Crips."