“The circumstances here are unique. Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants’ names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims.”
Paul Berger reports for the Forward:
Orthodox Jews charged with child sex abuse in Brooklyn should have their identities protected because of the community’s “tight-knit and insular” nature, prosecutors claim in a remarkable response to demands for information about the cases.
Rejecting a Forward request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, the Brooklyn district attorney made the startling claim that Orthodox Jews deserve a blanket exemption from the usual public disclosure rules. Prosecutors claimed that Orthodox Jews are “unique” in that releasing the names of suspects would allow others in the community to identify their victims.
“The circumstances here are unique,” Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy wrote in an April 16 letter to the Forward. “Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants’ names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims.”
Although Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has long resisted requests to identify Orthodox sex suspects, the letter is believed to represent the first time his office spelled out why it specifically singled them out for preferential treatment.…
Actually, Hynes' office has consistently refused to release these names and has consistently said the reason for that refusal is that releasing the names of the defendants or the guilty would, because of the nature of the haredi community, expose the victims, and this reasoning has been attacked by legal experts, victims and advocates. The Jewish Week has published on this as has the Guardian, and CBS did a story on it, as well.
In other words, the Forward doesn't really have a scoop here. In fact, other journalists even got the same FOIL denial letter as you'll probably see later today, and the Forward surely knew that before this story was posted.
The Forwward cannot even claim this is the first time Hynes put his position in writing, because his office has written emails to journalists containing this argument, and they have used those quotes in their reports.
I should also note that Berger – ever the rocket scientist – wrote the following without any clarification:
Dennehy also claimed that revealing the names of abuse suspects could harm the operation of the DA’s special hotline, Kol Tzedek, or Voice of Justice…
That there is a haredi victims' advocacy organization called Voice of Justice is something Berger should have told his readers so that it is not confused with the DA's Kol Tzedek hotline.
True to form, Berger did not do it.