“There is overwhelming evidence of blatant and concerted efforts by Lebovits and his associates to pervert the course of justice and cover up his appalling crimes. What is profoundly disturbing is that none of these efforts would have been successful without the active cooperation of the district attorney. Clearly, an outside investigation is now required to ensure that those ultimately responsible are held to account for this travesty of justice.”
Writing in the Jewish Week, Hella Winston reports that the key prosecution witness against Sam Kellner, who is charged with extorting the family of accused pedophile Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, has – again – radically changed his version of events, this time in response to inquiries made by the DA in recent days after it became clear that Kellner's defense team had knowledge of information exculpatory to Kellner that the DA had allegedly illegally withheld from it.
Kellner is the father of an alleged abuse victim and the man who brought several victims of Rabbi Baruch Lebovits to the District Attorney, thereby making the case against Lebovits possible.
Kellner was later charged with extortion and bribery, apparently based on clearly false information given to the District Attorney ny Lebovits' attorneys.
Here are the key quotes in Winston's report:
…[W]hile Yoel [the main witness against Kellner] testified in the Kellner grand jury that he knew Lebovits from synagogue, in a July 1 interview with Nicholas Batsidis and Joseph Alexis, two assistant district attorneys, and Rackets Division Chief Michael Vecchione, he claimed that he had “never seen Baruch Lebovits in his life.” In the same interview, Yoel also denied picking Lebovits out of a photo array, which, along with Yoel’s statements to a detective, led to Lebovits’ arrest. However, five days earlier, on June 26, he told prosecutors that Lebovits “could have molested me. [I] can’t really say.”…
…According to former Manhattan prosecutor and defense attorney Mark Bederow, “This witness has self-immolated. First, he swears to a pattern of years-long abuse by Lebovits. Then he reverses course and claims that he lied under oath and that although he knows Lebovits, he fabricated the abuse claims against him because Kellner paid him to do so. Then, on the eve of [Kellner’s] trial, he contradicts both prior sworn statements by bizarrely claiming he has never met Lebovits, but that [Lebovits] ‘may’ have molested him. He then alters his sworn testimony by claiming that he had not been paid by Kellner before perjuring himself at Kellner’s request.
“I don’t see any set of circumstances under which the DA can proceed with Yoel as a witness against Kellner.”…
…[T]he fact that the DA apparently unquestioningly took these allegations against Kellner from Lebovits’ defense attorneys and failed to investigate — until finally forced to do so by the prospect of the truth being revealed at Kellner’s trial — the possibility that Yoel was a victim of intimidation and witness tampering has also convinced them of the need for an independent investigation.
“There is overwhelming evidence of blatant and concerted efforts by Lebovits and his associates to pervert the course of justice and cover up his appalling crimes,” one of Kellner’s attorneys, Niall MacGiollabhui, told The Jewish Week.
“What is profoundly disturbing is that none of these efforts would have been successful without the active cooperation of the district attorney,” MacGiollabhui continued.
“Clearly, an outside investigation is now required to ensure that those ultimately responsible are held to account for this travesty of justice.”…
But that is not all Kellner's defense team managed to drag out of the DA's office.
Yoel, the main witness against Kellner, is being financially supported by haredi community activist Zalmen Ashkenazi. Yoel first told prosecutors he did not know Ashkenazi. Now he admits that, not only does he know Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi pays for his flights to and from his home in Israel.
Ashkenazi also pays his school fees, his rent, and for his attorney.
Yoel also said that he needs Ashkenazi’s “permission to return to the U.S. when he’s in Israel.”
Credit card and travel records obtained by the DA's office confirm much of this.
Ashkenazi is close to Lebovits and has actively been working to destroy the case against him in any way he could.
Lebovits' attorneys also made several unsuccessful attempts to get a plea deal on charges related to Yoel.
Kellner's attorneys reportedly believe that, in essense, the DA and Lebovits' legal team colluded to suborn perjury by having Yoel testify against Sam Kellner in a grand jury.
That likely-suborned perjury led to Kellner's indictment.
And when did the Brooklyn DA turn any of this information over to the defense as required by law?
Friday, only three days before Kellner's trial is set to begin, the Friday of the holiday Fourth of July weekend.
Read it all here.