Rabbi Baruch Lebovits' conviction on charges of molesting a teenage boy was voided on appeal yesterday because police failed to disclose documents regarding bribery allegations against a proxy of Lebovits made by one of Lebovits' victims. Lebovits had been sentenced to 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison. Having the police documents "would have prevented me from hurting my own client," during the trial, Lebovits' lawyer Arthur Aidala said.
Court nixes conviction of Brooklyn rabbi on sex-abuse charges
Baruch Lebovits out of prison after lawyer wins appeal
By Oren Yaniv • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A Brooklyn rabbi's conviction on charges of molesting a teenage boy was tossed aside on appeal Wednesday because detectives failed to disclose documents regarding bribery allegations.
Baruch Lebovits, 61, was sent to 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison based on testimony of a 22-year-old admitted drug user who claimed the rabbi sexually abused him at age 16.
Only after the alleged victim testified in March 2010 did prosecutors hand over notes indicating he had told police that Lebovits tried to bribe him.
But by then, the defense questions opened the door for prosecutors to ask about the bribery offer, which the rabbi later denied.
Having the documents in advance "would have prevented me from hurting my own client," said defense lawyer Arthur Aidala.
The four-judge appeals panel agreed, writing that the late disclosure "set a trap for the defendant which had already sprung at the time the notes were finally furnished."
"Total victory and it's probably the end of the case," declared Alan Dershowitz, who handled the appeal alongside Aidala.
The severity of Lebovits's sentence had sent shock waves through the close-knit Jewish community of Borough Park, where the purported crimes occurred. And the twists in the story didn't end there.
Lebovits, a wealthy owner of a travel agency, was sprung last April pending appeal after spending a year in prison. The surprising release came after the district attorney's office charged a Hasid with extortion, saying he offered to make the case go away if the rabbi coughed up $400,000. When Lebovits refused, the star trial witness emerged.
Those allegations were not part of the appeal but are sure to come up in a potential new trial.
"We are prepared to retry the case," said a spokesman for Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes.
The defense said they're hopeful that both sides will reach another resolution.
"I can't believe a responsible prosecutor will bring it again to trial," said Dershowitz. "It's inconceivable to me."
The New York Times adds:
…In an interview, [Lebovits’ new attorney, Harvard Professor Alan] Dershowitz called the decision “a total victory.”
He said if the case was retried, the defense could “introduce all new evidence we have gathered showing our client was a victim of an extortion plot.”
On Wednesday, Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said: “We’re prepared to retry the case. That’s all I can say.”
In a twist, the detective, Steve Litwin, is also at the center of another troubled case being handled by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. In that case, a woman’s recantation of a rape accusation in Detective Litwin’s notes was not shared with defense lawyers for nearly a year.
Mr. Schmetterer declined to comment on Detective Litwin’s involvement in both cases.…
The bulk of that evidence Dershowitz is relying on comes from a private investigator hired by the Lebovits family who documented the alleged extortion of Lebovits by Rabbi Samuel Kellner.
But that same P.I. also said this about Lebovits:
“Lebovits is not a tzaddik,” Levine said. "I think he is a child molester. Whether he deserves 5 years [in prison] or 32 years [in prison] is a different story…"