BROOKLYN — The defense team representing the Orthodox Jewish counselor accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl likened the case to the Salem witch hunts and the Communist Red Scare combined during closing arguments on Thursday.
Nechemya Weberman, 54, was wrongfully accused just like the "witches" in 17th-century Massachusetts and the Communists during the Red Scare of the 1950s, defense attorney Stacey Richman told the packed courtroom.
“During the Salem witch trials, people would never be given a fair shake,” Richman said. “In the 1950s, it took one word from a neighbor to get someone accused of being a Communist.”
“What’s the most we can say today? Child sexual abuser,” Richards continued. “And it is an awful thing. But the wrongful accusation of a child sexual abuser is even worse.”
Weberman, a prominent figure in Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community, has denied the charges against him, which allege that he began molesting the young woman when she was sent to him for counseling at the age of 12.
The alleged victim testified earlier in the trial that Weberman showed her pornographic films and then forced her to act out the graphic scenes with him.
Richman however, described Weberman as "without question [the young woman's] friend."
“She relied on him even more so than she relied on her own parents," Richman said.
Richman added that the case against Weberman was built entirely from the accusations of the alleged victim, whom Richman painted as a vengeful girl who became enraged when Weberman helped her parents have her then-boyfriend arrested in 2010.
“If Mr. Weberman had so much control over her, then why did she thumb her nose at him every time?” Richman asked members of the jury. “She had chosen her own path. She did not let the rules get in the way. She is not the kind of person who is going to let someone touch her and not ask why.”
In the prosecution's closing remarks, Assistant District Attorney Linda Weinman countered that Weberman was the jealous one, threatened by the presence of another, younger man in the alleged victim's life.
“She told him she met a boy who’s her age, not somebody who’s big and fat and old enough to be her father or her grandfather,” Weinman said. “[Weberman] was jealous. He wanted to get rid of a rival.”
Weinman also defended the alleged victim, who turned 18 Wednesday, as a courageous woman who spoke out about her abuse in the face of a community bent on keeping her accusations quiet.
“These are not the words of someone who is seeking revenge. They are the words of raw emotion. They are the words of pain,” Weinman said.
“Who could she possibly go to in this world? She had nobody, and he knew that,” she continued. “The defendant took this young girl with a fiery spirit, and he broke her.”
The jury is expected to begin deliberating on Friday.