Suspects in Orthodox Molestation Witness Intimidation Case Arraigned
BROOKLYN SUPREME COURT — Three brothers accused of trying to bribe an alleged teenage molestation victim to drop her case against a popular Orthodox Jewish community counselor also pressured witnesses to "forget what they know," according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office.
The brothers also allegedly threatened the now 17-year-old victim's boyfriend by vowing to remove the rabbi-certified Kosher sign at his restaurant. When he refused to comply, one of them, Jacob Berger, tore it down — an act that was caught on video, prosecutors said.
The details in the Williamsburg case emerged at an arraignment Thursday for Abraham Rubin and the three brothers, Jacob, Joseph and Hertzka Berger.
"They have gone and destroyed property. There have been threatening phone calls, each one doing their own act with the same result," prosecutor Josh Hanshaft said at the hearing. "The defendants decided to say, 'This is the system we want to follow.'"
As DNAinfo.com New York first reported Thursday, the four men are accused of trying to get the girl to drop her case against Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed therapist who is on trial in Brooklyn for allegedly molesting the girl for three years beginning when she was 12.
In front of a packed courtroom in Downtown Brooklyn, Rubin was charged with offering the victim's 22-year-old boyfriend a $500,000 bribe, and all four men were charged with coercion.
In addition to the bribery and coercion charges, Rubin also was charged with witness tampering. Jacob Berger was also charged with criminal mischief, and Joseph Berger was charged with aggressive harassment in the second degree.
All four men pleaded not guilty.
Justice John P. Walsh set bail at $75,000 for Rubin, and asked him to surrender any United States or Israeli passport he may have. Bail for the three brothers was set at $5,000 each.
"I'm hopeful that this will be a message to people who are intimidated that they should come forward and help us," District Attorney Charles Hynes said at a press conference following the arraignment. "No one can engage in this kind of conduct, and feel free that, based on prior experience, nothing can happen to them."
After the arraignment, Bruce Wenger, the lawyer for Hertzka Berger, called the brothers "prominent members of the community."
"They are all obviously going to be fighting these cases vehemently, and they're looking forward to their day in court," he said.
Michael C. Farkas, who represents Nechemya Weberman, the Orthodox community counselor accused of molesting the teenage girl, released a statement in response to the arraignment.
"Mr. Weberman had no prior knowledge of or involvement with these deplorable acts, which, if proven to be true, are reprehensible," the statement reads. "We denounce any effort to undermine the legitimate court process in this or any case. Mr. Weberman has stated from the beginning that no one should be subjected to any form of harassment."