Charles Hynes Fires Back at Critics and Brooklyn Orthodox Leaders

Prosecutor Defends Controversial Sex Abuse Policy

Firing Back: Sensing his legacy at stake, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes fired back at critics in a landmark extensive interview.
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Firing Back: Sensing his legacy at stake, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes fired back at critics in a landmark extensive interview.

By Paul Berger

Published May 29, 2012.
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“You are the only one who has said this is the only office doing anything about this,” Hynes said.

Hynes’ claim that Kol Tzedek is directly responsible for his successes has been forcefully challenged by the New York Jewish Week and by the New York Times. Both newspapers found evidence that Hynes includes prosecutions in his list of successes that either began before Kol Tzedek started or that involved members of the non-Jewish community.

Jaus said that her office’s position had been distorted. She insisted that she never claimed all the cases came through Kol Tzedek or involved only ultra-Orthodox perpetrators. Instead, she said each one used Kol Tzedek’s resources — such as a culturally-sensitive social workers or assistant district attorneys — to “bring the cases in and to maintain the cooperation of the victim, which is very difficult.”

Hynes and Jaus repeatedly underlined how hard it was to get ultra-Orthodox victims to come forward and to maintain their cooperation.

Hynes called members of the community “relentless pursuers” of the identity of victims.

“Within days after getting the name of a defendant in a sex abuse case the poor victim was outed and then immediately harassed and intimidated,” Hynes said.

Hynes announced recently that he will set up a panel of law enforcement officials to look into ways of combating intimidation. But he said that until now, victims’ families have been too scared to wear a wire. He said that alleged cases of intimidation brought to him by victims’ advocates contained insufficient evidence to mount a criminal case.

Meanwhile, Hynes said victims were “scared to death.” Families who bring cases are threatened with exclusion from synagogue and their children being thrown out of school. Because “victims feel trapped” in the community, Hynes said they often believe they have no choice but to drop their case.

Jaus said that even in cases of non-Jewish perpetrators, the stigma of abuse is too great for families to risk coming forward. She pointed to cases of a 4-year-old and a 14-year-old, both girls, who were abducted and sexually assaulted a few years ago.

Jaus said her office recently identified the non-Jewish perpetrator from a DNA database, but neither family would allow their daughter to testify.

“They won’t be able to arrange a marriage, go to school, get into a camp,” Jaus said. “This is what we are up against.”

The Forward, along with several other media outlets, has filed a request under New York’s freedom of information law for the release of the names of all the accused related to the Kol Tzedek program. The DA’s office has denied those requests.

Asked how he would respond if organizations continue to press their freedom of information request, Hynes said he would obey the law.

“We are going to continue to object to it because of our concern for our victims,” he said. “If a court directs us to turn it over, gey gezunterheyt, then I’ll do it.”

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


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