Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Brooklyn DA: Intimidation in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sex Abuse Cases Worse Than Mob Cases
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes continued to defend his office's record on sex abuse cases in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community at an unrelated press conference Wednesday. He said the victim intimidation in that community is worse than what he's seen in organized crime and police corruption cases over his nearly two-decade career.
"I haven't seen this kind of intimidation in organized crime cases or police corruption, and the reason for that is in organized crime cases, I can get witness protection," Hynes said. "In police intimidation cases, I can protect them as well."
The New York Times and some Jewish publications reported that Hynes doesn't pursue sexual abuse cases against Ultra-Orthodox Jewish suspects as aggressively as he does others because of his political ties to the community. The reports have also claimed Hynes failed to intervene when an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization told him that followers had to get permission from a rabbi before reporting allegations of sex abuse to authorities.
Hynes has maintained that a significant hurdle in sex abuse cases involving Orthodox Jews is that the community cares more about protecting suspects than victims.
"These victims don't believe they have anywhere else to turn. They live in this community, they want to continue to live in this community, and they want to live at peace. And they're not allowed to live at peace because no one gives a damn about victims. All they care about is protecting the abuser," Hynes said.
He called the effort of the community to protect possible abusers "relentless."
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, could not be reached for comment. In the past, however, he said people need to be cautious over allegations of abuse because a person’s life can be ruined by a false report. Last year, his organization said observant Jews should not report any allegations to authorities unless the first speak to a rabbi.”
As to the claim that Hynes is soft on crimes in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, he pointed to his prosecution record.
“I really showed my gratitude to the ultra-Orthodox community with more Ultra-Orthodox prosecutions than any prosecutor in this whole country," he told reporters. "You don’t think I have a monopoly on ultra-Orthodox people, do you?”
Hynes is pushing for legislation that would require rabbis and other religious leaders to report allegations of child sex abuse to authorities and has assembled a task force to target known victim intimidators within the Ultra-Orthodox community.