Hella Winston reports in The Jewish Week that Brooklyn's DA, Charles Hynes, is "cooking the books" with regard to the number of child sex abusers processed through the DA's Kol Tzedek hotline.
Hynes has claimed that 90 haredi child sex abusers were processed through Kol Tzedek since its founding in 2009, but he has refused to release their names.
Breaking with his months long policy, today Hynes' office agreed to comment on a list of more than 30 known haredi child sex abusers Winston submitted, noting which ones were and which were not Kol Tzedek cases:
• At least eight of those child sex abuse cases identified by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office as Kol Tzedek cases were actually reported years before Kol Tzedek existed, including the cases of Stefan Colmer, Yehuda Kolko and Yona Weinberg.
• Some of the cases Hynes office said were processed by Kol Tzedek were actually tried or concluded years before Kol Tzedek existed.
• Many of the cases Hynes is classifying as a part of Kol Tzedek were not reported through it, and instead were reported through the police or through the DA's sex crimes unit separately from Kol Tzedek.
This exchange between Winston and the DA's spokesperson says it all:
When asked why cases that were reported before the advent of Kol Tzedek are now considered a part of it, DA spokesman Jerry Schmetterer told The Jewish Week that the DA “made them part of Kol Tzedek.”
Asked to clarify by what criteria that decision was made, Schmetterer replied that he had “no further comment.”
This confirms what many victims and victims' advocates have said since Hynes told the Forward many months ago that 85 haredi child sex abusers had been reported through Kol Tzedek – Hynes wasn't telling the truth.
And the Guardian reported in March that Hynes was counting one case, that of Yona Weinberg, as a Kol Tzedek case even though Weinberg had been arrested a year before Kol Tzedek was founded.
“Names of people arrested are public record and available through other sources. If you have a name, I can confirm it,” Schmetterer added, offering this option to The Jewish Week for the first time.
But how could this be done?
Essentially, it would take dozens of man hours reading through court calenders and related information at the Brooklyn criminal court. A reporter could do that, pick out Jewish sounding names, and then ask the D.A. about them – an insanely cumbersome process that makes no sense at all.
As David Bookstaver, the communications director for the New York State Courts, told Winston:
[W]hile these records are “presumptively public,” without a name or case number to identify a specific record, the best way to get these names “is from the DA.” The only way to get these names from the courts, Bookstaver told The Jewish Week, would be to “do a massive data search, which we are unable to do.”
Hynes reason for denying Winston's FOIL request are eqully bizarre:
[U]nlike in the “vast majority of cases,” revealing merely the names of defendants would tend to identify their victims because these defendants “are alleged to have committed sex crimes against chasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community.” As such, the DA argued, there is a “significant danger that the disclosure of the defendant names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of victims.”
But, as Winston notes, many abuse survivors within the haredi community and outside it reject Hynes' reasoning, including Debbie Teller, a survivor and the editor of Adkanenough.com, a website that outs alleged and convicted child molesters:
“Since I began the site, I have not had a single person request I take down a name for any reason. On the contrary, I have received e-mails from people, not all anonymous, asking me to include their molesters.”
“I believe that victims feel stronger and safer when they know that the perpetrator is known and has been publicized. It is the exact opposite of the DA’s excuses,” Teller added.…
Robert Freeman, executive director of New York State’s Department of State Committee on Open Government, told Winston thatHynes may be vulnerable “to an equal protection argument,” referring to the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Everybody is receiving the same treatment, except this group [of Orthodox sex crimes defendants], which is receiving greater privacy protection [than everyone else],” Freeman noted.
I've made that argument myself several times over the past few months, and it may end up being the violation of the civil rights of non-haredi accused pedophiles, and the violation of the civil rights of haredi children subjected to greater risk of sexual abuse by the D.A.'s actions, that bring Hynes down.