Nechemya Weberman, a respected religious counselor in the ultra-orthodox Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn, was just convicted of repeatedly sexually abusing a girl who had been sent to him for help.
The jury found Mr. Weberman, 54, guilty of 59 counts, including repeated sex abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child, the Huffington Post reported. Mr. Weberman will be sentenced on January 9 and could face up to 25 years in prison on the top charge.
The accuser, who is now 18 and married, had been sent to Mr. Weberman by her school for counseling after complaints about her immodest dress and her questions about her religion. The abuse occurred in Mr. Weberman’s office during those counseling sessions, beginning when the girl was 12 and continuing through age 15. Though Mr. Weberman is not a licensed therapist, he has been counseling individuals and families in the community for decades, the Huffington Post said, in keeping with community custom of private, religious counseling.
The trial, which began on November 26, turned a spotlight on the secrecy and insularity of the Satmar community. Religious authorities strongly discourage members of their community from taking complaints of physical or sexual abuse to secular authorities, and prosecution of such allegations has sometimes been hampered by witness intimidation. Before the Weberman trial began, Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes brought charges against four men who allegedly attempted to interfere with the case through bribery and threats, the Huffington Post said. During the trial, four other men were cited for criminal contempt for taking cell phone pictures of the victim, in violation of court rules, reported the New York Times.