Michael Powell writes in the New York Times:
Sam Kellner is a man twice shunned and living in a deepening shadow.
Five years ago, this gray-bearded and excitable man with a black velvet yarmulke spoke out about the sexual abuse of his 16-year-old son by a prominent Hasidic cantor. As Mr. Kellner helped investigators with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office search for other young Orthodox victims of this man, the Orthodox establishment grew ever angrier at him. The rabbi at his Hasidic synagogue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, denounced Mr. Kellner as a traitor and forbade parishioners to talk with him on the street. Yeshivas barred his sons. His businesses dried up — he pawned his silverware to meet his bills. And he still fears that he will never find a marriage match for his son.
“I felt murdered and abandoned,” Mr. Kellner said. “I’m ruined.”
This, however, was a prologue to a worse situation. In April 2011, after the district attorney’s office gained a conviction against that cantor, Baruch Lebovits, the prosecutors turned around and obtained an indictment of Mr. Kellner. They said, based on a secret tape and the grand jury testimony of a prominent Satmar supporter of Mr. Lebovits, that he had tried to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Lebovits.…
The transcript [of that secret tape] reveals a conversation soaked in ambiguity, and rendered in overwrought language. It depicts Mr. Kellner as a tortured father trying to find justice. The younger Mr. Lebovits at times seems to accept that his father committed some acts of abuse. Hella Winston of The Jewish Week has profitably plowed the fields of this case, exposing its many weaknesses. Ms. Winston notes that, far from persuading fake witnesses to testify, Mr. Kellner worked closely with a rabbinical court in Monsey, and with a Brooklyn assemblyman, each of whom helped him find alleged victims of Mr. Lebovits.
Two weeks ago, I talked with the three-member rabbinical court — known as a Beit Din — in Monsey. These rabbis…view Mr. Kellner as a brave pioneer. He did not seek out witnesses at random; rather their court, with the help of local leaders in Williamsburg, gave him names of victims.
“Lebovits is known to have a long history” of sexual abuse, Rabbi Chaim Flohr said.…“We are not aware of Mr. Kellner ever asking for money,” Rabbi Flohr said.…
Powell also makes it clear that people in the haredi community who want Lebovits thrown in prison are fearful because of the power of the people in the haredi community who support Lebovits.
(And I should add that many of Lebovits' supporters surely know he is guilty, but in the haredi world, guilt is relative.)
Powell also has a particularly rich quote from Alan Dershowitz, who is one of Lebovits' attorneys. (The other Lebovits is attorney is Arthur Aidala, an old friend of D.A. Charles Hynes and his deputy campaign manager in 2004.)
Dershowitz tells Powell that he sees haredi anti-abuse activists as extortionists, not activists. His proof? Dershowitz doesn't say, but apparently his assertion relies on that secret tape – which is at best ambiguous, as Powell reports, and at worst (which is likely) is a tape of Lebovits' son and Kellner discussing a beit din proceeding, no more, no less, no hint of extortion.
There are definitely problems with how some anti-abuse activists conduct their work. However, those activists and their problems are not involved in the Lebovits case, Kellner is. And so far, the information made public supports Kellner's innocence, not the inflated claims of the D.A. or the even more inflated claims of Alan Dershowitz.
To get a good idea of what Alan Dershowitz does to the truth, how he misrepresents and uses innuendo and outright lies and intentional misquotes to 'prove' his twisted points, read this.
Read Powell's entire column here.