On December 10, Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed youth and marriage counselor in the Satmar community of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, was convicted of 59 counts of sexual misconduct against a minor.
As in any trial, the judge reminded the jurors that the defendant’s guilt must be proved “beyond reasonable doubt.” But with Weberman now facing a possible prison sentence of 25 years or more, it is worth asking what exactly has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and whether it was Weberman’s community as much as his actions — deplorable if true — being judged in the docket with him.
The Brooklyn district attorney’s case hinged exclusively on the credibility of the team’s single witness — the young woman accusing Weberman of sexually abusing her during each of their counseling sessions, which often took place multiple times a week, beginning when she was 12 and ending when she was 15. Though there have been reports of other victims, both from religious support groups for victims as well as from the DA, none have come forward. Weberman has flatly denied the allegations. When asked if he had ever touched his accuser inappropriately, he said, “Never, ever.” Absent DNA evidence, the case is a he said, she said. The verdict hung ultimately on whose testimony the jury found more credible.
Weberman’s defense team questioned the accuser’s credibility by arguing that she had two very strong motives for wanting to harm Weberman. First, the accuser’s sister owed the defendant $35,000, the first $10,000 of which was due six days before she went to the police to report Weberman. And second, Weberman had assisted the accuser’s father in taping her having sex with her 18-year-old boyfriend when she was 15, leading to the boyfriend’s arrest. On the stand, Weberman’s accuser denied that she knew of his involvement in the arrest, stating that she learned of it only this past summer, though Weberman’s name was explicitly stated as an accomplice during her original complaint to the New York City Police Department, two years ago.
The defense team also pointed to discrepancies noted when comparing the accuser’s testimony in court with her conversation with the arresting detective, to whom she made the original complaint. Furthermore, the top two counts for which Weberman was standing trial were on dates of alleged abuse that didn’t match the victim’s statement to the NYPD. For these reasons, Weberman’s attorney argued, none of the evidence against his client is provable beyond reasonable doubt, and the case should be dismissed.