NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Prosecuting childhood sex-abuse cases in the Hasidic community has been a long-standing problem for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
Cases often fall apart because of witness intimidation, and the DA now has a task force to try to find a solution.
While some say that’s a step in the right direction, others question his track record.
“That this should happen in America is beyond me,” an unidentified man told CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois.
The unidentified man is afraid to reveal his identity, but he desperately wants to tell his story. In 2004, his seven-year-old son was allegedly sexually abused by Rabbi Joel Kolko, who taught at Torah Temimah, a Brooklyn Yeshiva.
“Kolko was a monster,” the father said.
The family filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that school officials knew or should have known that Kolko allegedly molested students for decades.
“It definitely has ruined a lot of lives,” the unidentified man added.
Last February, the father said that he received a disturbing phone call. In a sworn affidavit, he said that the caller threatened him, saying, “You better back off or you will suffer the consequences.” He traced the call back to the Yeshiva.
“Nothing surprises me because they feel that they can do whatever they want,” the father said. “They feel that nobody is going to stop them.”
And it didn’t stop there.
In an affidavit, his son’s therapist said he was urged to “convince my patient to settle this case.” And a second family, also suing after their son was allegedly abused by Kolko, was compared to “Nazis” by the school administrator.
Advocates said that abuse not being reported to outside law enforcement in the insular Hasidic community is not uncommon. In fact, those who do decide to report incidents to authorities come under tremendous pressure to drop legal action and shut up.
“They’re guilting them and threatening them,” Ben Hirsch, the head of a group that helps Hasidic sex-abuse victims, said. “It’s a very powerful assault.”
Hirsch gave the affidavits describing the intimidation to District Attorney Hynes, and he hoped for an investigation.
But there never was one.
“The message it sends is, ‘We’re not interested,'” Hirsch said. “And if they’re not interested, then the indication is that they may be interested in continuing past behavior, which has been to cover it up.”
Hynes defends the decision not to investigate.
“You’ve got to show criminal intimidation,” Hynes said. “You’ve got to show that someone was threatened, was harassed.”
CBS 2 showed the affidavits to Fordham Law Professor James Cohen, who found the behavior possibly criminal — and certainly unethical.
“It’s very, very troubling and disturbing,” Cohen said. “It should not go on. Law enforcement should not countenance it or approve it, as it looks as if they are no longer doing.”
The alleged victim’s father said he hopes that Hynes means what he said; that he will investigate the intimidation of those who come forward to report abuse.
“If he’ll arrest one or two people for intimidation, I believe it will stop,” the father concluded.
The attorney for the Yeshiva told CBS 2 on Friday that the accusation a blatant falsehood.
Do you trust that the district attorney’s task force will clean up the alleged childhood sex abuse within the Hasidic community? Offer your thoughts and comments in the section below…