Rabbi Barry Freundel, the former spiritual leader at a prominent Washington synagogue, has pleaded guilty to 52 counts of peeping on naked women in the mikveh, several news outlets reported.
Freundel admitted using three different hidden cameras to capture different naked women in the ritual bath from different angles.
“Guilty,” Freundel, a bearded figure wearing glasses and a yarmulke, said when asked how he pleaded by District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Alprin.
Prosecutors said Freundel recorded the women between early 2009 and October 2014 using devices installed in two changing rooms for the National Capital Mikvah, which is next to the Kesher Israel synagogue.
One of the victims, Stephanie Doucette, said in a statement: “I continue to be profoundly shocked and upset by Rabbi Freundel’s outrageous conduct, which violated the security, trust and beliefs of so many women.”
“I didn’t expect it to be over. I am glad it is,” said Jeffrey Shulevitz, the husband of Emma Shulevitz, one of Freundel’s victims. “The rabbi was a brilliant man, and he used it to harm people instead of making the world a better place.”
Freundel, who also is facing civil lawsuits, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15.
Prosectuors asked that Freundel wear an electronic ankle bracelet, but the judge rejected that request.
Alprin asked Freundel, “Are you going to make me look stupid and flee the jurisdiction prior to sentencing?”
In a loud voice, Freundel responded, “Absolutely not, your honor.”
The Washington Post reported that D.C. prosecutors sent a note to victims saying that “as victims of crime, you will have the right to submit a written as well as an oral victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing, expressing how this crime has impacted you.”
Freundel, 63, was arrested last October on six charges of voyeurism after investigators discovered secret cameras installed in the mikvah shower room and additional recording devices in his home. His Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel, immediately suspended him and later fired him, ordering him to vacate the shul’s rabbinic residence.
An oral agreement was reached on a plea offer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The plea offer included one count for every victim recorded during the statute of limitations and identified by a photograph submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“We also did not restrict our ability to seek incarceration or restitution for those victims identified during the statute of limitations in any way,” the letter said.
Prosecutors have told alleged victims that Freundel secretly recorded more than 150 women undressing at the mikvah.
Prosecutors said at least 52 women were recorded nude or partially nude on 25 different dates from March 2012 to September 2014. Voyeurism carries a three-year statute of limitations.
Investigators also found that Freundel secretly recorded about 100 more women between 2009 and September 2014 in a bathroom at the National Capital Mikvah, they said.
Each of the 52 counts of voyeurism carries a penalty of a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000, or $2,500 for those committed after June 2013.
Women who were videotaped as they used The National Capital Mikvah in the Georgetown section may submit a victim impact statement “expressing how this crime has impacted you,” the letter said. They also can give an oral impact hearing during sentencing.
Freundel, who reportedly separated from his wife after his arrest, had refused to leave his synagogue-owned residence, and the congregation has taken the case to the Beth Din of America. WTOP, a local news radio station, reported that he is now planning to vacate the house within two weeks.