Is The Brooklyn DA Hiding Documents That Would Implicate Him?
Next week, attorney and author Michael Lesher will argue before New York State’s highest court for the release by the Brooklyn District Attorney of documents he has been seeking since 2007, related to the failed extradition of Avrohom Mondrowitz – documents some speculate will show that the DA colluded with haredi rabbis to protect Mondrowitz.
Hella Winston reports for The Jewish Week on Michael Lesher's attempt to get the Brooklyn DA to release documents that might reveal illegal collusion with the haredi community in the case of Avrohom Mondrowitz.
Here's an extended excerpt from the article:
Next week, attorney and author Michael Lesher will argue before New York State’s highest court for the release by the Brooklyn District Attorney of documents he has been seeking since 2007, related to the failed extradition of Avrohom Mondrowitz.
Mondrowitz, an alleged serial Orthodox child molester who fled to Israel in 1984 before an arrest warrant could be executed, was indicted in absentia by a Brooklyn grand jury on 14 counts — including five counts of sodomy in the first degree — in 1985.
An attempt to extradite Mondrowitz in 1985 failed, and he remained free in Israel until he was arrested in 2007; the arrest came after a renewed extradition request following a change in the extradition treaty between Israel and the United States. After going up to the Israeli Supreme Court, that extradition attempt also failed.
At stake in this case is not only whether or not Lesher — and the public — will get to learn more about the actions of the Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, other U.S. and Israeli government agencies and the Orthodox community in the Mondrowitz case, but the effectiveness of New York State’s Freedom of Information laws.…
“This record ought to show us something about what Hynes’ office was really doing while Mondrowitz’s victims struggled to have him brought back to face justice — its actions, its considerations, its motives and any outside pressures brought to bear on the D.A,” Lesher told the Jewish Week.
He added that, “It may also shed light on the real workings of the Kol Tzedek program, which yoked Hynes’ office to powerful Orthodox organizations while the Mondrowitz extradition case was pending.”
Lesher also believes that Hynes’ steadfast refusal to produce the documents indicates that the DA may be trying to hide something.
“If there’s nothing in this file to embarrass the DA, why has he fought for so long to conceal it?” Lesher asked.…
Hynes has justified his refusal to release this information by invoking New York civil rights law intended to protect the privacy of victims; he has claimed that to reveal the name of an alleged perpetrator could somehow, even outside of cases of incest, identify the victim.
Legal experts have questioned the validity of this justification, and some observers speculate that the DA’s policy is politically motivated. It is aimed, critics say, at shielding the community and its institutions — as well as the DA’s office itself — from the scrutiny that could result if more information was known about these cases and how they were handled.
(Charges that Hynes treats the Orthodox community with kid gloves have dogged him for years. A 2003 Newsday article quoted a retired police captain saying, “In Brooklyn, it almost seemed like there were two penal codes, one for the Hasidic community and one for everyone else.” The DA’s office rejected the charge, saying its decisions were not politically motivated.)…
Then, in what the New York Law Journal pointed out was what a highly unusual move, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, agreed to hear Lesher’s case.
At his appearance next week, Lesher will argue that by permitting a law enforcement agency to withhold any and all documents “that may have something to do with the target of a possible future prosecution,” the Appellate Division has created an entirely new justification for withholding information under FOIL.” This is of particular concern because, as Lesher argues, FOIL “mandates liberal disclosure of documents to the public.”
Indeed, according to Robert Freedman, the executive director of the Department of State Committee on Open Government, “Even if it can successfully be argued that the extradition materials were compiled for a law enforcement purpose, in consideration of changes in circumstances [the now closed extradition case], it may be difficult for the DA to prove that disclosure at this juncture would in some way be damaging.”
In fact, last month the New York Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in support of Lesher’s appeal, arguing, in essence, that agencies have an obligation — already recognized by the high court — to redact and release, rather than withhold, documents.…
Read the entire report here.