Rabbis who conspired to torture men with cattle prods lose their appeal against sentence
Defence invoked authority of Maimonides to no avail
|RINGLEADER & FOUNDER OF THE GET MAFIA YISROEL BELSKY IS ALREADY BITING THE DUST|
An appeal by three New York rabbis convicted in 2015 of violently kidnapping men who refused to give their wives a get has been dismissed.
Rabbis Mendel Epstein, Jay Goldstein and Binyamin Stimler were among ten people convicted in April 2015 for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. They sought to reduce their sentences on the grounds that their acts – which included the application of cattle prods to victims' genitals - could not be considered criminal because they were essentially religious in nature.
Today their appeals were rejected by the three-strong panel of judges, who rejected the rabbis’ assertion that their acts could not be considered criminal because they were essentially religious in nature.
U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson sentenced Epstein to 10 years (120 months), Stimler to 3 years (39 months) and Goldstein to 8 years (96 months.)
Six other co-defendants also pleaded guilty before trial and were sentenced to up to 48 months.
The rabbis believed that they had extracted $10,000 from a desperate woman who wanted them to coerce her husband into granting a divorce. They were in fact ensnared in a sting operation by federal agents.
Epstein had told the undercover agents that he would need $10,000 to approve the coercion at the Beth Din, and $60,000 for a team of "tough guys" - one of whom was Epstein's son David, who would ensure the victim’s cooperation.
According to evidence given at his original trial, Epstein told the agent posing as a would-be divorcee: “What we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give you the get.”
“We take an electric cattle prod. If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move … You put it on certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know.”
The federal agents were investigating Goldstein and his co-defendants after a string of kidnappings, thought to be as many as 20. In one of the cases, a husband agreed to meet the defendants regarding an apparent job offer only to be “tied up, beaten and shocked with a stun-gun until he agreed to give his wife a get.”
On October 9, 2013, 8 of the conspirators, wearing Halloween masks, ski masks, and bandanas were arrested at a warehouse in New Jersey where they were expecting to ambush their victim.
When he was sentenced, Epstein told the court: “Over the years, I guess, I got caught up in my tough guy image. Truthfully, it helped me - the reputation - convince many of these reprobates to do the right thing.”
Wolfson said during the trial that "no one is permitted to commit acts of violence against another," and that the harsh sentences were intended as a deterrent to prevent others in the Orthodox Jewish community from engaging in similar acts.
Almost immediately after the trial, reports the Washington Post, the rabbis’ defence team lodged an appeal. One of the key planks of the defence case was the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
They maintained that the crime was an essentially religious act, citing a 2015 statement by Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz in support of the defendants.
The statement cites Maimonides, who wrote: “When a man whom the law requires to be compelled to divorce his wife does not, the court should have him beaten until he consents, at which time they should have a get written.”
This argument was rejected by the appeals panel: “The defendants fail to cite, nor can we identify, any cases in which any court has allowed RFRA to shield individuals in the commission of violent crimes…Respect for religious beliefs cannot … trump all other legitimate, and sometimes competing, government objectives. This appeal asks us to clarify the balance between religious freedom and public safety. The balance here clearly lies on the side of public safety.”