Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By Debbie Teller
My admiration for Ms. A grows as I watch the defense team try to break her down.
For four hours, Mr. Farkas junior pounded away asking questions about times and dates that could very easily have boggled the mind of even an expert witness.
But Ms. A stood her ground and did not waver even once. I noticed that even the judge was getting a little annoyed even though he comes across as extremely easy going and even jovial at times.
Michael Farkas spent most of the day going over dates and times of when Ms. A met certain relevant people. It seemed as though he was trying to prove that she is unreliable and a liar to boot. From my perspective he was not successful. He spent over half an hour trying to find out if Weberman knew that she was having a hard time in school or not. He kept going over and over these points until even the jury seemed exhausted from listening to the repetitive questions.
At one point Mr. Farkas asked Ms. A if it is a fact that Mr. Weberman is a Satmar. (He pronounced it Sat maaaar) And she responded that she didnt know.
Farkas turned to the victim and barked: "What do you mean you dont know, cant you see that he is- what makes you think that he might not be Satmar?"
And without a blink she responded that all Satmar men pray at the Satmar synagogue, and Mr. Weberman did not.
There was an audible chuckle from the audience.
It goes without saying that Farkas said nothing further on the subject of the authenticity of Nechemya's "Satmerism".
Today the judge threw out a piece of so called evidence. It was a telephone directory - a Jewish one of course. Apparently it is a joint business venture between Weberman and Ms A's father. This business partnership had absolutely no relevance to the case, yet Michael Farkas tried very hard to get it to be admissible going as far as handing the book to the victim to see if she recognized it.
The defense continuously tried to portray Ms. A as not only dishonest but as an angry teenager who spent her teenage years in Williamsburg engaged in all sorts of terrible activities. It was laughable because the worst thing he came up with was that she had been reading Cosmopolitan and People magazine! (I am sure that the mostly black jury were wondering if there was something in People magazine that they didn't know about)
She also testified that she used Mr. Webermans email account (Apparantly HE is allowed to have Internet access) to sell some poems and lyrics that she had created. It was almost amusing to see how hard Farkas and his team were digging to find some nasty, terrible deed in her past. But of course the worst this young girl had "done" in her life was to be raped and molested by her guidance counsellor Nechemya Weberman.
The argument that she should have told someone what was happening was terribly lame. One can Google anything to do with sexual abuse and disclosure and hundreds of articles will appear on this subject. It is well known that coming forward and exposing the secret of being abused is very difficult for the victim. It is beyond my understanding how this highly trained team of lawyers are using something like this as a defense.
Ms A. is a resilient young woman who has shown unbelievable emotional strength in the face of her ordeal. And on day 3 of this trial she has once again shown us that the truth will always prevail!
Please come to the trial tomorrow at 1:45pm to show your support!!
After months of anticipation, a 17-year-old girl took the stand in the sexual abuse trial of a respected counselor from an ultra-orthodox Jewish community that authorities say has historically avoided such prosecutions by keeping members quiet.
In a packed courtroom filled mostly with her supporters, the teen took the stand against Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed religious counselor in the Satmar community, an ultra-orthodox sect of Judaism.
Weberman is accused of sexually abusing the girl dozens of times in his home and office over a three-year span beginning when she was 12 years old. The girl, who turns 18 next week, is not being identified because she is the victim of a sexual-abuse crime.
The teen testified she was taken to see Weberman after school leaders deemed her a problem after she questioned her religion.
“I had a lot of questions about religion. … How do you know God exists?” she said, adding that in response her teacher “yelled at me and sent me to the principal. It happened to me a lot of times.”
She started seeing Weberman in March 2007, first twice a week and sometimes up to four times a week.
Speaking in almost inaudible tones and at times struggling to hold back tears, she described the alleged abuse in detail for more than three hours.
“I just froze,” she said about their first encounter. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know how to fight back. I was numb.”
“He would continue touching me all the time,” she said, adding later, “I wanted to die rather than live with myself.”
The testimony brought many in the audience to tears, with court officers having to quiet attendees for whispering loudly during breaks in testimony.
The case is one of the few that Brooklyn prosecutors say they have been able to bring to fruition because going after sexual predators in the community has been difficult without cooperation from residents.
In the lead up to the trial, District Attorney Charles Hynes said prosecutions in the community can be more difficult than even organized-crime investigations, in which he can at least offer a witness-protection program.
The case has caused deep divisions among Williamsburg’s Hasidim, with some rallying behind Weberman, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his defense and subjecting the accuser to threats and name-calling.
Four men were charged earlier this year after they allegedly tried to buy the silence of the girl and her now-husband. The girl was married in October.
On Tuesday, the girl talked about what a difficult decision it was to have to testify against Weberman.
The girl testified that her parents had suggested she drop the case as recently as six months ago, taking her to a Rabbi, who tried to get her to drop the case.
When asked by a prosecutor what was the benefit of proceeding, she answered, “peace.”
Asked about the pressure to drop the case, she gave several examples, including “intimidation,” “intimidation of my parents,” “loss of business,” “having my nieces kicked out of school.”
Defense attorneys have argued that the girl has singled out Weberman and the Satmar religious community because of its ultra-orthodox policies.
Tuesday is the second day of a trial that is expected to last a week. Weberman is also expected to take the stand in his defense.
Prosecutors finished their direct examination Tuesday morning. The girl is back on the stand Tuesday afternoon, being questioned by Weberman’s attorneys.
The young Orthodox Jewish woman who took the stand to testify in her sexual abuse case in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday faced an inscrutable jury but also a crowd of sympathetic observers.
Her extended family, friends, victims’ advocates, and some who said they were sexually abused within the Orthodox Jewish community filled the three rows of seats. More supporters waited outside.
At the same time, the prominent ultra-Orthodox Jewish man from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Nechemya Weberman, who stands accused of molesting the young woman, had only a few family members and supporters present in the courtroom.
Abe Rubenstein, an audience member whose son had testified as a victim in a high-profile Orthodox Jewish sexual abuse case in Borough Park, Brooklyn, two years ago, remembered how that courtroom had been packed with supporters of the defendant. That experience, prosecutors said, was typical of a community that had tried for years to intimidate sexual abuse victims into silence.
“Only I was there,” Mr. Rubenstein remembered. “When my son testified, he said he felt alone in the jungle.”
This time, people said that they came because they had read on victims’ advocacy blogs that the victim needed support or heard about her case through publicity surrounding a fund-raiser for Mr. Weberman in May.
Though the young woman’s parents had asked her to drop the case as recently as this spring, the victim testified, about 20 members of her family came to show their support in court.
“The anger has reached a level where people have decided to put an end to making the victim into the villain,” said Judy Genut, an advocate for abuse victims in Williamsburg.
The testimony of the young woman, who turns 18 next week, lasted for hours.
She recalled in detail her first meeting with Mr. Weberman, now 54, at an apartment he used as an office. Her father, she testified, had brought her there for counseling at age 12 because he falsely believed she was having a physical relationship with a 16-year-old neighbor named Shimmy.
Mr. Weberman, she testified, locked the door to his office as the session started, spoke to her, and, later, asked her to stand up.
“He asked me, ‘Did Shimmy kiss you like that?’ ” she said. Then, she testified, he kissed her. “He asked me, ‘Did he touch you on the breast?’ And he did that. And then, he kept going down.”
“I just froze,” she said. “I didn’t know how to fight back.”
She said nothing to her father when he came to pick her up, she testified under cross-examination. Nor did she tell her family she wanted to stop going to sessions, though she said the abuse went on for years, in four-hour sessions that sometimes were held several times a week. In 2011, she reported being abused to a licensed therapist, who brought her to the police.
George Farkas, a defense lawyer, argued Monday that the young woman, who often got into trouble for flouting strict Satmar dress codes and other rules, was making up the abuse story because she wanted revenge against Mr. Weberman, who she believed had told her parents about a boyfriend she had when she was 15. The boy, then 18, was subsequently arrested, though the charges were later dropped.
Michael Farkas, another defense lawyer, asked the young woman if she sometimes felt a deep anger at her religious community and those who enforced its strict rules. She said she did.
But when prosecutors asked her whom she blamed for the boyfriend’s arrest, she did not say Mr. Weberman.
“I blamed my father,” she said.