Ending a long fight, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes will release more than 100 pages of documents related to the case of Avrohom Mondrowitz, the American Orthodox rabbi alleged to have sexually abused dozens of children before fleeing, eventually to Israel, in 1984.
The release may help resolve contentions — rejected by Hynes — that he failed to aggressively pursue Mondrowitz’s extradition from Israel out of political considerations.
The documents detail nearly 20 years of the case’s history, and mainly include e-mail correspondence between the Brooklyn DA’s office and federal agencies regarding Mondrowitz’s extradition to the United States from Israel to stand trial. Victims’ advocates have criticized Hynes for failing to push hard for the extradition.
It was Hynes’s predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, who first sought Mondrowitz’s extradition when he fled Brooklyn in 1984, a year before she indicted him in absentia on child rape charges. Israel rejected her request on the grounds that rape was defined in Israeli law exclusively as forced sex by a man against a woman. Israel expanded its legal definition of rape in 1988 to include sodomy. But Hynes, who took office as Brooklyn DA in 1990, says he judged that this change in the Israeli law could not be applied to alleged crimes committed earlier. He renewed the effort to extradite Mondrowitz only after Israel and the United States amended their extradition treaty in 2007 to encompass all offenses punishable by more than one year in prison in both countries.
In 2010, the Israeli Supreme Court barred Mondrowitz’s forcible return to the United States on the grounds that too much time had passed for him to receive a fair trial on the charges.
The documents are being released as Hynes comes under fire for his record on prosecuting Orthodox sex abuse cases. In May, The New York Times published several reports detailing Hynes’s acquiescence to a policy by ultra-Orthodox leaders that requires individuals who suspect that sexual abuse is taking place to secure approval from a rabbi before notifying secular authorities. Since then, Hynes has toughened his stance on this issue. A spokesman for Hynes said the release of the documents was unrelated to the media storm.
The documents’ release is the result of a Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL, request filed by Michael Lesher, a New Jersey attorney who represents several of Mondrowitz’s alleged abuse victims. Lesher estimates that Mondrowitz, who was a self-styled children’s psychotherapist in the Orthodox community, abused hundreds of young people over many years.