Orthodox Abuse Suspects Get Exemption

Agudath Israel Opposes Brooklyn Prosecutors' Refusal to Identify

By Paul Berger

Published April 24, 2012, issue of May 04, 2012.
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Dennehy also claimed that revealing the names of abuse suspects could harm the operation of the D.A.’s special hotline, Kol Tzedek, or the Voice of Justice, which was set up three years ago to encourage Orthodox abuse victims to come forward. Disclosing suspects’ names could cause victims to lose faith in the hotline, which, in turn, would “interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings,” he claimed.

Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University, said that prosecutors’ refusal to release the suspects’ names or other information about their alleged crimes amounts to “enabling” abusers.

“I think they are complicit in what enables these kinds of perpetrators in these kinds of communities if they are going… to refuse to publish names of any child sex predators,” Hamilton said. “When names of perpetrators are made public, their other victims are empowered to come forward and the whole community is given the power to identify and stop them and other predators.”

Hamilton added, “What the D.A.’s office is doing, unfortunately, is playing right into the hands of the abusers.”

Laura Ahearn, executive director of the advocacy group Parents for Megan’s Law, said disclosure laws must be applied equally to everyone.

Her group advocates for enforcement of the rules mandating identification of sex offenders. The issue came to national prominence after the 1994 rape and murder of Megan Kanka in suburban New Jersey by a convicted sex offender living on the family’s block.

“[Hynes’s] decision to withhold names is likely leaving the public vulnerable,” Ahearn said.

Daniel Mullkoff, a legal fellow with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said there was no good reason to withhold the names of abuse suspects from the public.

“In this case, the public has raised concerns about what the district attorney is doing,” he said. “Withholding of this information is without a legal basis and denies access to just the type of information that the public records law seeks to make public.”

In October 2009, Hynes’s office redacted the names of 26 Orthodox Jews on a list of those charged with sex crimes. A Freedom of Information Law request submitted by the Forward to see those names was refused.

When Hynes last year trumpeted the arrests of 85 Orthodox Jews on sex crimes charges since 2008, he again refused to release the suspects’ names.

He cited the need to protect the identity of victims. Yet that same week, Hynes issued a press release publicizing the name of a non-Jewish man convicted of raping his girlfriend’s daughter. Hynes released the man’s name, the neighborhood where he lived and the victim’s age, enough information for any neighbor to identify the girl.

Hynes even refused to name 14 Orthodox defendants who were convicted of sex crimes, 10 of whom pleaded guilty. They were sentenced to between one month and 20 years in jail. Although some of those cases were covered in the media, several were adjudicated without public scrutiny.

An additional 24 people were released on probation after pleading to reduced charges, or after their cases were dismissed. Again, it is likely these cases were not reported in the media.

Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was abducted from the family’s Petaluma, Calif., home in 1993 and murdered, said he was very concerned about Hynes’s policy of withholding suspected sex offenders’ names.

Klaas said it was particularly wrongheaded to withhold the names of people who have pleaded guilty to lesser crimes, which would allow them to avoid having to register as sex offenders.

“The public has the right to know who these individuals are, so they can use that information to protect themselves against those individuals,” Klaas said.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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