Plucky Lawyer Fights for Abuse Case Files

Takes on Prosecutor Over Suspected Molestor's Extradition Documents

Pushing Hard or Hardly Pushing? Is Brooklyn prosecutor Charles Hynes pushing hard enough to force the extradition from Israel of Avrohom Mondrowitz? Lawyer Michael Lesher wants to force Hynes to hand over documents that may answer the question.
getty images
Pushing Hard or Hardly Pushing? Is Brooklyn prosecutor Charles Hynes pushing hard enough to force the extradition from Israel of Avrohom Mondrowitz? Lawyer Michael Lesher wants to force Hynes to hand over documents that may answer the question.

By Paul Berger

Published February 10, 2012, issue of February 17, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The power of state freedom of information laws will be tested when a scrappy New Jersey lawyer who represents victims of an alleged ultra-Orthodox child abuser faces off against Brooklyn’s district attorney in court later this month.

Michael Lesher will argue in New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, on February 14 that District Attorney Charles Hynes must release a trove of documents.

Michael Lesher
courtesy michael lesher
Michael Lesher

The papers relate to a decades-long investigation of Avrohom Mondrowitz, an American Orthodox rabbi and self-styled child psychotherapist who fled to Israel from Brooklyn in 1984 before police could arrest him on charges of sodomizing five non-Jewish boys. Mondrowitz, who was indicted on those charges in 1985, is alleged to have abused dozens of Jewish children, too, but because of communal fears of reporting to the secular authorities at the time, many alleged Jewish victims did not come forward.

Lesher, who represents six alleged Jewish victims, has long accused Hynes of dragging his heels on extraditing Mondrowitz from Israel. He claims that Hynes has feared upsetting Brooklyn’s bloc-voting Orthodox Jewish community since taking up the elected post in 1990. He believes the files stored in Hynes’ office could prove it.

Four years ago, Lesher used freedom of information laws to demand that Hynes release his files on Mondrowitz, including all correspondence between his office and federal agencies regarding efforts to extradite Mondrowitz from Israel.

Hynes refused. The D.A. claimed that releasing the information could jeopardize any future prosecution of Mondrowitz. He also argued that because of civil rights laws, he could not divulge information that might reveal the identity of abuse victims.

Last December, Hynes also used the need to protect victims’ identities to justify his refusal to release to the Forward the names of 85 Orthodox individuals who Hynes said had been arrested on sex abuse charges in Brooklyn over the past three years. Hynes had recently touted his record on arrests of alleged Orthodox child abusers. But when asked to identify them, he declined even to name 14 abusers who had been convicted.

Doing so, Hynes claimed, would potentially enable readers to identify victims.

“Under the Civil Rights Law of New York State, we cannot release the names of any victims of sexual assault or any information that would tend to identify them,” a spokesman for Hynes’s office told the Forward in December.

At the time, legal experts and law enforcement officials said that it was not unusual to maintain the anonymity of some offenders, particularly for abuse committed within a family. But they expressed surprise that the Brooklyn D.A. would effectively issue a blanket ban on naming Jewish offenders.

The same week, Hynes announced the sentencing of non-Jew Gerald Hatcher, 47, for raping his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter in their Brooklyn home.

Hynes spokesman Jerry Schmetterer told the Forward on February 7 that the D.A. released Hatcher’s details because the “case was well known by reporters who covered the sentencing.”

Schmetterer declined to comment on the pending case against Lesher.

But freedom of information specialists said the court battle could have wide-ranging implications for similar cases across the country, where government agencies have been similarly obstructive when requested to release documents.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said state freedom of information laws nationwide are founded on the same principles.

“They say government records are supposed to be exposed except to the extent that an exception can be properly applied,” said Freeman.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.