Late last week, the outcome of the trial looked fairly uncertain. Alternate jurors, dismissed prior to deliberations, had either stated that they felt that there was not enough evidence to convict at all, or not enough to convict on the most serious of the charges, reported the New York Post. The remaining jurors deliberated only a short time before being sent into recess in order to allow the defendant, Rabbi Nechemya Weberman, to attend to the Sabbath.
Monday morning, according to the Daily News, the jurors only took ninety more minutes before announcing their verdict in unison: Guilty. Guilty of fifty-nine counts of abuse. Guilty of forcing the underage victim to perform oral sex and reenact pornography films during "religious counseling sessions" from 2007 to 2010. Guilty of violating the trust of an ultra-conservative religious community and the trust of the victim's family.
The dismissed jurors’ candor provided a rare, if ultimately inaccurate, look into the minds of the jury. One juror told the Post that she would have voted for acquittal because there was no DNA evidence or video tape. She referred to both sides as “shady” and said that the remaining jurors seemed divided on the issue of guilt.
Though the jurors heard four days of painful testimony from the victim, there was no physical evidence to support her accusations.The abuse happened between 2007 and 2010. The victim didn’t come forward until 2011. They also heard denials from the defendant about the alleged conduct and testimony about the victim’s desire to get revenge upon Rabbi Weberman.
Perhaps what hurt the defendant most was his inconsistent testimony about possible misappropriation of charitable funds for personal purchases, which included lingerie. He also denied a witness’ account that stated that he was caught with an erection while a different teenage girl from the community was sitting on his lap. According to the Daily News, that same girl slept on a cot in his office for two years.
In most jury trials, and more so in high profile cases, extra jurors are selected as a safeguard against illness or misconduct. If a juror becomes unable or unwilling to continue, one of the alternates takes their place. During the trial itself, all jurors, including alternates, sit in the jury box and hear the evidence. Alternates are sent home prior to deliberations if their presence is no longer needed. The jurors that spoke to the Post heard everything that the final twelve heard, yet interestingly enough, came to a different conclusion.
For the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, this was more than an ordinary victory. Earlier this year, the office was lambasted for allegedly protecting sex offenders in the ultra-conservative Jewish community. A conviction of one of the most prominent figures in that community for sex abuse does much to counter the earlier negative public relations hit. Hopefully, it also leads to more transparency and accountability.
- Consult a New York Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- Jury finds Nechemya Weberman, Satmar Hasidic leader, guilty of molesting teenage girl he was paid to counsel (New York Daily News)
- Rabbi Weberman’s Sex Abuse Trial Starts, Sans Sex Tape (FindLaw’s New York Criminal Law Blog)
- Rape Shield Law’s Applicability in Orthodox Jew Rape Trial (FindLaw’s New York Criminal Law Blog)