BROOKLYN — The Orthodox Jewish counselor accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl blamed the alleged victim for fabricating the accusations as he took the stand in Brooklyn Supreme Court Wednesday for the first time during his trial.
Nechemya Weberman, 54, a prominent figure in Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community, denied molesting the young woman, whose 18th birthday was Wednesday.
"Never, ever," Weberman said in response to a question from his attorney about whether he had "inappropriately touched" the alleged victim.
Weberman said the young woman was seeking revenge against him because she believed that he was involved with her father's efforts to get her then-boyfriend arrested for statutory rape in 2010.
"We are going to target you," Weberman said the young woman told him during their last meeting.
Weberman, who spoke calmly and evenly, also recalled the first time he met with the alleged victim, who was sent to him for counseling after breaking her religious school's strict dress code.
"I wanted to speak to her," Weberman said. "In the beginning, she didn't talk. She asked me, 'Why should I trust you?' She told me, 'Why should I talk to you? You look like a [Hasidic] f---.'"
Weberman's last comment elicited gasps from the packed courtroom, which contained more of his supporters than in the earlier days of the trial.
Toward the end of Weberman's testimony the defense asked him what he was "looking to do with her."
"To save her life," Weberman said, referring to his efforts to make the young woman conform to the community's religious and modesty standards.
The alleged victim previously testified that Weberman showed her pornographic videos and forced her to act out the scenes with him.
"I did not show [the victim] pornography," Weberman answered emphatically during his testimony.
Weberman has pleaded not guilty to 88 counts of charges including committing a criminal sex act, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
Weberman, who is not licensed as a counselor, received his clients through a Williamsburg Hasidic girls' school and as recently as 2006 from Va'ad Ha Tznius, a secretive group that enforces the strict moral codes of the Satmar community and is based Upstate, Weberman said.
"They used to send people to me," Weberman said about the group, though he added that he is no longer in contact with them. "That was the deal."
Earlier Wednesday, the defense called a young woman to the stand who said lived in Weberman's home office for about three years, from late 2006 through 2009. Weberman said at least one other young woman stayed in his office because of issues at home or school.
He said his wife and their parents were aware of where they were staying.
Prosecutor Kevin O'Donell focused much of his questioning Wednesday on a nonprofit Weberman ran, B'lev V'Nefesh, which is supposed to help low-income people with housing. O'Donell said Weberman used some of the nonprofit's funds to pay for things including lingerie and his children's tuition.
Weberman acknowledged spending $11,000 on expenses in one month.