Unorthodox Exception Or Preferential Treatment? Brooklyn District Attorney Refuses To Release Names Of Orthodox Jews Accused Of Child Abuse

There is an interesting story out of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn District Attorney routinely releases the names of charged individuals — as do all prosecutors. However, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has decided not to release the names of Orthodox Jews charged with child sex abuse in deference to their “tight-knit and insular” community. That seems like preferential treatment given a particular religious group — a group with considerable political power in New York.

We have previously discussed the difficulty experienced by victims of child abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community — an experience with many analogies to the response of the Catholic Church in past years.

Hynes insists that the ‘tight-knit’ nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims. Instead, he imposed an exception for Orthodox Jewish defendants that has not been applied to any other known group. This followed a refusal to release the names under a demand through New York’s Freedom of Information Law.

Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy insisted that the Orthodox Jewish community is “unique” and that the names of the charged would allow the identification of the victims. However, the fact that the community is so tight knit would also presumably mean that the charges against individuals would be known to other people in the community. Moreover, the withholding of the names can endanger other minors who may have contact with them without their parents knowing of the charges. It would also mean that other victims may not learn of the charges and come forward — something that we have seen in other cases.
There appears to be 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges during the past three years — presumably the community is already aware of many of their identities since they have had to get lawyers and be processed in the criminal justice system.

Dennehy also claimed that revealing the names would undermine the operation of the DA’s special hotline, Kol Tzedek, or Voice of Justice — set up to deal with victims in the Orthodox community. She suggested that it might deter victims from coming forward. Yet, it may also encourage such victims since the Orthodox community has been accused in the past of covering up abuse and harassing victims. Now victims could see actual cases of prosecution and compare their own experiences in light of such charges.

I believe that the preferential treatment given this religious community is deeply disturbing and unjustified. We have previously seen extraordinary measures by city leaders to accommodate the hasidic community in its view of women and clothing styles. It is difficult to explain to other defendants why they are named (and mugshots released) but others are not. It appears that a defendant need only be a member of the Orthodox Jewish community to be able to claim an exemption from public identification. If you are a member of another religion or an atheist, you are out of luck because you are not “unique.” What about insular Muslim or small evangelical communities?

The preferential treatment given this group undermines not only principles of separation of church and state but the public right to know about public charges in the criminal justice system. The media often allows the public to monitor the actions not just of accused persons but the government itself. The Court has stressed that

responsible press has always been regarded as the handmaiden of effective judicial administration, especially in the criminal field. . . . The press does not simply publish information about trials, but guards against the miscarriage of justice by subjecting the police, prosecutors, and judicial processes to extensive public scrutiny and criticism.

Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 350 (1966).

The decision of the District Attorney in this case in my view is fundamentally at odds with fair and equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

Source: Wall Street Journal and Gothamist

40 thoughts on “Unorthodox Exception Or Preferential Treatment? Brooklyn District Attorney Refuses To Release Names Of Orthodox Jews Accused Of Child Abuse”

  1. 11/4/2012
    United Advocacy Group, Inc.
    John Bernadyn, Managing Partner

    Troubled Jewish Teenager Describes Horrors of Sexual Abuse Growing Up in Foster Care
    John Bernadyn, UAG
    (CHICAGO) – As an innocent twelve year old boy, John Bernadyn was taken from his dysfunctional home and placed in to the youth welfare system of the state. “Freedom often comes with a price,” recalls Bernadyn.
    After spending many years lacking sleep, recalling horrible memories, and avoiding social situations he published a memoir entitled, Betrayed By The State: A Ward of the State Speaks Out. “These horrors won’t stop with me. Every parent needs to know that they are at risk of hearing these stories from their children – if the state so chooses to remove them from their home,” said Bernadyn. The statistics do seem to warrant his statement. While many organizations spend time campaigning or boasting about the positive outcomes for those having grown up in the foster care system, the silent majority go unheard.
    Shortly after arriving in his first foster care situation he contacted his child welfare caseworker to lodge a formal complaint. This started a six year journey of transfers from placement to placement that would ultimately land him in what he describes as ‘hell’ – including all the torments of physical and sexual violence. His final stop prior to exiting the system would be to live with youth from the department of corrections with serious problems. “I had to grow up rapidly in order to survive this situation.”
    In Bernadyn’s account he alleges that the child welfare system was unresponsive to his needs and the needs of those around him. In fact, he says, “They ultimately stopped taking my calls.” He is grateful to the final judge he met and ultimately released him from these horrors in a heart-wrenching and detailed account of the courtroom scenario.
    The successful twist is what does not get discussed in Bernadyn’s memoir. Bernadyn would later become a successful healthcare executive and managing partner of United Advocacy Group, Inc. Although calling Chicago his home, he travels extensively for speaking engagements and healthcare consulting. He may be reached at or (312) 489-0632.

  2. Me again. I want to point out that many Jews, not only secular, Reformed and/or Conservative Jews, but also Orthodox Jews, object vociferously to the “insider-driven” cover-ups (aided by Hynes and others like him) of child sexual abuse and other acts of child abuse within these tight-knit, closed, coercive communities. In fact, there is an active website put up quite a while ago by Orthodox Jews to address this kind of problem. One recent letter written by an adult survivor of child sexual abuse within a secretive ultra-Orthodox society wrote an interesting letter about this:

    When the Catholic Church was in its most defensive posture about the pedophile priests, it used excommunication to discipline those who would go on the attack against its abuser-support system. The Jews do not have a mechanism for excommunication (that I know of) but of course, community ostracism and hatred are powerful forces.

    Shrink this situation down and look at it another way: What are the RCC and the Orthodox Tribal Community and what do they have in common? They are patriarchal powers with “subjects” who are really as subjected as any person can be in a monarchy. They exert more control (over their seemingly willing participants) than governments. Of course, their control over adults is not assured, and adults can leave the faith, but children can’t do that without also leaving their parents.

    So the “Fathers” in the Catholic Church and the “Rebbes” in the Orthodox Jewish Tribe in Brooklyn have as much, or more, power than a father in a father-dominated family. Think about how subjected a child is to such a man. Thus, if he chooses to misuse that power, he usually can. There is nothing particularly outlandish about it, except, if you will, the idea that any grown man would WANT to have sex with children — but that is a completely different matter.

    It is the power coefficient that actually produces the intractability of this problem. You have a child trying to accuse a highly respected, prestigious, almost unassailable authority figure, and the child can easily be made to seem wrong and bad for doing so. The child’s parents are then expected to stop the child from misbehaving, and probably most of the time, that works. Only if the parents (together) oppose the abuse of the child can anything rational even BEGIN to happen.

    As far as Hynes’ conduct is concerned, that’s simple government corruption, the clearest kind. He needs to be prosecuted. By the feds.

  3. Mike Spindell, thanks for your comment upthread, and yes, you are right and I am glad for your correction on that. One of my best friends is Orthodox and she fought right alongside me in the case that took place among the Haredi, and she and I tried together to defeat Hynes and his thugs, and we lost together, and we mourned together, and the whole thing. Yes, I stand corrected — haste made me be imprecise.

    Any system as closed and misogynist as the Haredi ultimately becomes as dangerous as they became. You should see what they do to their own women who try to put their children’s welfare above the coercion that is practiced in that community; it is a great disservice not only to those Jewish women and children, but to all Jews everywhere because it reflects upon us poorly even though we are not participating and, in fact, trying to combat it.

    I know of one big reason they oppose the Internet: Because of the ability of victims to get their stories out! In fact, I personally was punished by people whose goodwill I very much needed just to continue leading a marginally decent life because I helped put up a website honoring one of the women who had been utterly brutalized and essentially tortured by a gang of Haredi power-brokers and Hynes himself. And Judge Alvin Deutsch, whose name should be erased from memory (AFTER his crimes are made known and appropriately attributed to him and his protectors).

    One of the activists in New York told me that I should not have written a scathing letter to the then Chief Judge Judith something-or-other about her successful efforts to protect Judge Deutsch after he practiced corruption and she saved him from a valid judicial ethics complaint. They told me “You burned your bridges with her!” I responded in a rage: “Do I need my bridges with her? Do I need a bridge that can ONLY be crossed by abusers and thugs? Do I need a bridge that a child can be thrown from without anybody caring or hearing the screams before she hits the surface of the water? These bridges with these judges cross the Styx and take us to Hell!”

    Ooops, sorry, I got into it again; still can’t stop myself.

  4. MtinMO and Think/ofthe/Children: When I was an activist in NY I made complaints (as did many others more capable and more powerful than me) all over the place about Hynes, about Gribetz, about those who, like him, were sheltering criminals — and not just pedophiles (although probably that “subset” was a large one) but other criminals. Complaints complaints! Most of them are just ignored. At other times we were told that there COULD have been an investigation if only the Activists had not been so “strident.” Of course, we were only strident once the first 12 to 15 proper requests to go through channels nicely and officially had been flushed down the filthy toilets of their indomitable corruption. Hynes was the major reason one of the cases ended in the near death of the child from starvation! She was saved by a couple of days or so, and no charges were ever drawn for what was done to her. She was kept in circumstances that were like the Chinese “rehabilitation” camps and as a result, of course, she adopted the abusers’ technology and completely identified with the aggressors!

    Worse than all that, Hynes enabled many criminals to go on perpetrating! In one case, a physician who worked for the Veterans Administration (and STILL DOES) medically neglected his own child until it was just presumed that she was dead, because he refused to allow her doctor to perform necessary blood tests (not for religious reasons, but because he said he would take care of it himself, as a doctor). In order to prevent charges of medical neglect against this criminal physician, Hynes had the New York Commission that investigates “infant deaths” [meaning death of children under the age of 18 who have no known terminal illness] prepare the investigation and come to the conclusion that the death was not a “preventable death.” Then, to their surprise, the child DID NOT DIE. So there they were with egg on their face having prepared the whole thing so that when she DID DIE, they could absolve the perpetrator of “depraved indifference” from being charged with a crime. Miraculously, however, after the death squad prepared their whole report and it was even reported, becuase the death did not occur, the report became “lost.”

    Just imagine. New York taxpayers are funding this criminal conduct!

    I’m tired of making complaints about things like this. A guy like Hynes has committed so many crimes that it would take a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to begin to scratch the surface. And still, there would be a stony official denial of everything in the end. I am so disgusted I cannot find words for it.

    I wish there were 5,000 FOIA requests to Hynes from all over the country. I wish everybody who had an extra week and a extra thousand dollars would make another FOIA request of him. I wish…oh nevermind.

  5. Wow. A District Attorney protecting pedophiles. Which is what is being done. Surely something can be done to stop this kind of discrimination and favoritism? Which is precisely what is going on. They are discriminating against all the others arrested for this terrible crime by naming them and then turning around and showing favorism in the law by not naming names in the Orthodox Jew community. I have a serious problem with that and it would seem to me that the state or Justice Department or someone should be able to do something about it. How can they truly be providing justice for the people of Brooklyn if they are handling these cases in this manner?

  6. “… This followed a refusal to release the names under a demand through New York’s Freedom of Information Law.”

    If the Brooklyn DA is in violation of the law, he should be criminally charged.

  7. Thanks, Mike.

    I have to wonder where a community’s priorities are though when they are willing to spend $1.5 million on a Luddite cause rather than spending that money on something important like protecting their children from sexual predation.

  8. Mike-

    I gotta agree with your statement here. If you read the Jewish Press article (The Jewish Press is a middle of the road Orthodox paper that is merely reporting on this event), you will see who the Rabbis behind this are. They are Haredi Rabbis from ISRAEL. I find this very interesting. Why have no Orthodox Rabbis from America signed on to this rally? The answer is that they believe as Mike Spindell points out, that Judaism is not about sticking your head in the sand. They believe that the internet has its place in a Jewish home. So Mike, you have there an Orthodox belief, though not a Haredi belief.

  9. Unrelated? Maybe, maybe not.

    Ultra-Orthodox Jews To Hold Rally Against The Internet

    “A mass rally against the Internet and technology held by a group of Haredim, or ultra-orthodox Jews, will take place in Queens, New York on May 20, reports the Jewish Daily News (JDN).

    According to the site, the protesters will fight against “the evils of the Internet and damage of advanced devices” that they believe negatively affect younger generations. The rally will cost about $1.5 million.”

    1. Gene,

      That is directly related. Within the Haredi community there is a direct rejection of modern culture. People accessing the Internet, especially children, have the possibility of discovering other outlooks on life and the world around them. The most threatening thing to any cult is information that differs from what the cult is teaching. This is why cults work to cut people off from and family or friends, who are not cult participants. From their perspective the information available on the internet is evil, because it often contradicts the Haredi world view. Jewish tradition has always been one that respects the individual becoming as educated as possible. Jewish tradition also considers that humans and God partake in a dialogue. The Haredim believe that only the Torah and its related writings are worthy of study. This is why I differentiate the movement from normative Judaism. While the Haredi see themselves as the coming standard of Judaism, I see them as the coming threat to Judaism, which is to me a religion and a people that has survived through intellect and education.

  10. Mike S.:
    Thanks for your explanation of the Haredi branch of Judaism. I suspect that Catholics and Jews are the two most politically powerful religious groups in Brooklyn, which would certainly explain the limited nature of the “special arrangements” provided by DA Hynes.

  11. This is just another example of the extraordinary political clout the ultra orthodox have in New York. It is obviously outrageous and unsupportable. Hopefully, with enough people screaming, the names will be released.

  12. Guys, this is a lot worse than is presently imagined. Hynes is involved in major cover-ups that have put the children of many of the Orthodox into terrible, intolerable, life-destroying situations. He is responsible for the major cover up that was fully documented — obsessively and completely documented — in the “Amy Neustein” case that took place durign the 1990s in Brooklyn. I consider Hynes a major criminal, specialist in the cover-up done for political and/or financial gain. In the “Amy Neustein” case, by the way, I believe that he actually had some part in arranging that the New York Board on Infant Death would do an investigation (which they accidentally did on a child who had not actually died!) to clear an alleged incest perpetrator of all wrong-doing NOT for the incest allegations themselves, but for the fact (the undeniable medically-proven fact) that the child was dying of anorexia nervosa and that her physician father did not even provide medical care to her while she was wasting away to near-death between the ages of six and 13. The father was not even charged with medical neglect when the emergency room physician put in an affidavit that if she had not been taken to the emergency room by her mother (whom the judge had ordered never to take the child for medical care again!) this child would have died within a few days. The mother saved her child’s life and for having done so, the judge terminated all her visitation forever. That child was brought up with such a dose of hatred for her mother that she was reported to have threatened suicide if her mother was allowed to attend her wedding — the Orthodox are not very nice to wives who do not show utter obedience to their husbands you know.

    Meanwhile, Amy Neustein not only documented every illegal, unlawful, corrupt, anti-mother, anti-child, outrageous act by Hynes and his crew of thugs but she turned it into a scholarly search for the key to cases like hers, so that others could learn about a dangerous problem that comes from “isolated insular communities.” After all, what was the Catholic Church before all these scandals broke? What is the FAMILY when it is insular and isolated and a parent can control all the information that comes in and goes out? ALL INSULAR, ISOLATED units ultimately become bastions for the kinds of secrets that kill souls.

    State Senator David Paterson (who later become Gvoernor Paterson of New York) held hearings about the Amy Neustein case in the 1990s. I attended; I testified; I heard the testimony; I took notes. Hynes was reported to have told people who questioned his refusal to draw charges in that case that he refused to do so because he heard “the mother was crazy.” Paterson said, from his position in the center of the panel table, “If a prosecutor would not draw charges for a crime based upon the supposition that the victim’s mother was crazy, there would be a lot of crimes we could never punish in this state.”

    Ladies and Gentlemen: Hynes. Prosecutor, Brooklyn, USA.

    1. “the Orthodox are not very nice to wives who do not show utter obedience to their husbands you know.”


      I agree with almost all of what you wrote above, but I would ask you to be a little more precise in your identification. There is a world of difference between normative Orthodox Judaism and the Judaism practiced by the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox as I discussed in comments above. I personally am not a fan of Orthodox Judaism and its beliefsa regarding women. However, having had Orthodox Jews i my own family, I know their beliefs differ greatly from those of the Haredi. It is an injustice to Jewish Orthodxy to not properly define terms. On could hardly take the excesses of the Ultra Fudamentalist Christian sects and describe them usig simply the term Christian. The same is true in the case of Muslims.

  13. There’s much abuse and many cover-ups in the Mormon church too. It’s another tightly knit group where leaders (all male) stick together.

  14. Next time one of these perverts molests someones child, this clown protecting them should be dealt the same punishment as the perv. I believe career politics is a sickness that needs to be dealt with also. After a while they start thinking they are above the law. Who pays these criminals? You Do……

  15. Lol. Every time you have a big group of people you can bet there are a bunch of sickos in that group. It is not pleasant to think about-your next door neighbor could be a pedophile. Enter an all boys camp or school=Opportunity for sicko to take advantage of. This decision is dead wrong, and the Professor is 100% right on this issue.

    Even in Israel I have heard they are now having problems with pedos in the community. It is not uncommon, BTW in Israel to see a charming sight-A 4 year old just big enough to push a stroller pushing their 3 year old sibling along. To me that is just charming, but to a sicko that is opportunity.

    In every society you will have these predators-because that is what they are-and the best way to expose and stop these bastards is to make everything as transparent and open as possible. Withholding info on pedos is the wrongest way to handle this.

  16. Rafflaw,

    I am Jewish and formerly Orthodox and I can clearly say that child molestation is not limited to Catholic Priests, etc. Unfortunately the Hassidic and Orthodox community have this problem as well. I have to go pick up my sister now but I will comment further in a bit.

  17. whistleblower,
    I am not Jewish, but I can tell you as a Catholic who grew up in Skokie, IL that there is a systemic outbreak of sexual violence among priests that has gone on for decades. I would agree that this exception to the law is creating the same non-disclosure that the bishops used to hide child predators and who are still hidden from the authorities.

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