Court Increases Security in Wake of Sex Abuse Trial Photo Chaos
BROOKLYN SUPREME COURT — Court officers stepped up security at sexual assault trial Friday, a day after supporters of the rabbi accused in the case were allegedly caught taking photos of the alleged victim on the stand to post online.
Officers used hand-held metal detectors to check spectators and confiscated cellphones from everyone who was not a credentialed member of the press before allowing them to enter Rabbi Nechemya Weberman's criminal trial in Judge John Ingram's courtroom.
Before testimony began, Ingram reminded the audience about proper court procedure.
"We've had several breaches of the laws of the state of New York. Our courts are open to the public but the court cannot tolerate any further violations," he said. "This is not some kind of sporting event, it's not a theater production, and I expect everyone to act accordingly."
Despite his warnings several Weberman supporters scoffed and snickered at times while the alleged victim was giving her testimony.
When asked by prosecutor Kevin O'Donnell why she finally came forward after years of alleged abuse, the young woman said she wanted to protect other potential victims.
"I felt that I had a responsibility, that if I didn't try to do something he would keep doing it," she said. "It's kind of my fault that he continued doing it to other people."
Weberman, 54, who is among the leaders of the Williamsburg-based Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, allegedly sexually assaulted a pre-teen sent to him for counseling because her family feared she was rebelling against her religious requirements like wearing concealing tights.
The victim was on her third day of grueling testimony when four Orthodox Jewish men were allegedly caught using their cellphones to snap photos of the accuser while she testified in court, in a violation of court rules. At least one of the photos was posted on Twitter.
Joseph Fried, 23, Yona Weisman, 23, Abraham Zupnick, 23, and Lemon Juice, 30, were arrested and are expected to be charged Friday with misdemeanor judicial contempt, which could carry up to a year in jail if they are convicted.
On Friday, the courtroom crowd was thinner than in past days, possibly because the Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday. But those present submitted to the added security measures before stepping inside.
In her fourth straight day on the stand, the alleged accuser revealed additional chilling details about Weberman's alleged predatory behavior, including that he admitted he started watching her from a young age.
"My aunt lived in the same building [as the defendant] when I was younger and I used to play there. He [Weberman] told me he always watched me when I was there. He always had a feeling I was going to end up going to to him and he couldn't wait for me to go to him," the accuser said on the stand. "I was 7."
The woman said much of the abuse happened in a small office with a bed inside, as well as in a big room in Weberman's office where he had a computer.
"Did the defendant ever show you movies on this computer?" prosecutor Kevin O'Donnell asked the woman, who said yes. "What kind of movies?"
"Porn," the woman said.
"Did he ever ask you to do anything after showing you those movies?"
"Copy what was in the porn," she responded.