NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities have charged 49-year-old Samuel Kellner with paying a fraudulent witness $10,000 to falsely testify that a Brooklyn rabbi had sexually abused him as a child.
Rabbi Baruch Lebovits was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison last year after being convicted of eight counts of a criminal sexual act on the testimony of two other young victims — including Kellner’s son.
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks with more details on the accusations
District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said a new indictment charges Kellner with perjury in addition to extortion and conspiracy. He was not charged with bribery or witness tampering.
Hynes said Kellner found out in 2008 that the rabbi had been accused of molesting a child, then got the second child to make similar claims.
Kellner also is accused of demanding $400,000 from the rabbi’s family while saying he could have other children make similar allegations against him.
“We allege that Kellner sent emissaries to Lebovits’ family telling them that he controlled the witnesses against Baruch Lebovits,” Hynes said, “and that in return for $400,000, he would ensure that the witnesses would not testify at trial.”
Hynes stated that while child abuse cases must be “prosecuted vigorously,” authorities should be mindful and “very, very careful about false complaints.”
Upon Kellner’s indictment, lawyers for Lebovits — led by famed Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz — rushed to start an appeal.
“We know this community, we love this community and there’s a real job that has to be done in that community to eliminate this culture of extortion,” Dershowitz said.
The appellate judge will allow Lebovits to be released on $250,000 bail pending his appeal. He will be under house arrest, be required to wear an ankle bracelet and will only be allowed to leave his home for a medical emergency.
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