Brooklyn District Attorney Candidate Ken Thompson Backpedals on Hasidic Abuse Scandal

Insists Has Open Mind on Sam Kellner Extortion Case

Say What? Brooklyn District Attorney frontrunner Ken Thompson has slammed his opponent Charles Hynes for prosecuting a prominent advocate for abuse victims in the Hasidic community. Why is he now hedging his position?
getty Images
Say What? Brooklyn District Attorney frontrunner Ken Thompson has slammed his opponent Charles Hynes for prosecuting a prominent advocate for abuse victims in the Hasidic community. Why is he now hedging his position?

By Paul Berger

Published November 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

On the campaign trail, Ken Thompson, the Democratic candidate for Brooklyn district attorney, has sharply criticized incumbent Charles Hynes’ prosecution of a prominent Hasidic advocate against sexual abuse, even attending a rally calling for charges against the man to be dropped.

But Thompson, who is widely expected to win the November 5 election, is now hedging his position on the case of Sam Kellner.

“As the D.A. I’m going to get in and look at all the evidence I’m not [currently] privy to,” said Thompson, when asked about the case.

Beyond that, in an October 30 interview with the Forward, Thompson refused to discuss the Kellner case, or his own previous statements questioning Kellner’s guilt.

Asked why it was proper for him to comment in July, when he was a candidate for district attorney in the Democratic Party primary, but not now, Thompson said that since he won the nomination in September he can no longer comment on the case.

“There’s a difference,” Thompson told the Forward. But he acknowledged that given his earlier appearance at the rally for Kellner, “it may appear that I took a position.”

Kellner was arrested in April, 2011, on charges of extortion and bribery related to a landmark sex abuse conviction that has since collapsed.

Prosecutors said that Kellner paid a witness $10,000 to falsely testify that he was sexually abused by Baruch Lebovits, whom Kellner says also abused his own son. Kellner was also charged with trying to extort the Lebovits family over the abuse allegations.

Kellner’s trial, which has been delayed several times, is due to begin November 12.

Thompson’s campaign website still refers to Kellner’s prosecution as “botched”. It’s a fair characterization, given that prosecutors admitted in a pre-trial hearing, in July, that a key witness in the case against Kellner gave contradictory testimony.

But Thompson’s site goes on to claim, erroneously, that “Lebovits’s lawyers used the Kellner prosecution to have his conviction overturned.” In fact, Lebovits’s conviction was reversed because prosecutors withheld a key piece of evidence from the defense at Lebovits’ trial.

Asked about the error regarding Lebovits’s case, Thompson repeated that it was “not proper” for him to comment on pending cases. Thompson stunned political observers in September when he won the Democratic nomination for District Attorney, beating Hynes, who has held the office for 24 years.

Hynes conceded and offered to smooth Thompson’s transition into office. Then, in a dramatic reversal, Hynes changed his mind and opted to run on the Republican ticket.

The Brooklyn D.A.’s race has been marred by mud-slinging on both sides, including vicious Yiddish-language ads. One ad, posted in two Satmar newspapers, blamed Thompson’s primary victory on “the minority element that seeks lawlessness.”

Supporters of Thompson, who is black, have condemned the ad as racist. Hynes denied having sponsored the ad. At the same time, he denied it was racist. Thompson told the Forward that the ad was “disgraceful.”

He also criticized Hynes for his previous statements labeling the ultra-Orthodox community as “worse than the mafia.” Hynes was referring to the prevalence of witness intimidation against victims of sex abuse who choose to cooperate with police.

“The mafia kills. The mafia murders,” Thompson said. “And for [Hynes] as a top prosecutor to compare any community in Brooklyn to the mafia is wrong.”

Thompson said that he would wait until he was in office before he makes a decision about whether to continue Kol Tzedek, a program started by Hynes to combat sex abuse in the Orthodox community.

Hynes controversially refused to divulge names of people accused and even convicted of abuse against Orthodox children. He argued that shielding perpetrators’ names protected the identity of the victim.

Thompson has vowed to end the practice.

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


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!
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • 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.