Ashkenazi haredi Rabbi Mendel Epstein bragged he would use an electric cattle prod on the genitals of a recalcitrant husband to force him to give his wife a Jewish bill of divorce known as a get. Now Nathan Lewin claims Epstein did no wrong – at least no wrong that deserved FBI intervention.
Above: Nathan Lewin
News Analysis: Nathan Lewin Spins For The “Prodfather”
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Ashkenazi haredi Rabbi Mendel Epstein bragged he would use an electric cattle prod on the genitals of a recalcitrant husband to force him to give his wife a Jewish bill of divorce known as a get. Now Nathan Lewin claims Epstein did no wrong– at least no wrong that deserved FBI intervention.
Lewin – the Orthodox appellate attorney best known around these parts for equating PETA with the Nazis and for allegedly encouraging Sholom Rubashkin of Agriprocessors infamy to accuse the government and the trial judge of anti-Semitism while giving Sholom Rubashkin other advice altogether helped put Rubashkin behind bars for 27 years – has a long column in the Jewish Press defending Rabbi Mendel Epstein and the other members of Epstein's get coercion, torture and kidnapping ring.
Lewin 'accidentally' attributed a quote to Rubashkin's trial judge that she never actually said and then used that fictitious quote in an appeal. FailedMessiah.com exposed Lewin and the appellate court later chastised him for putting words in the trial judge's mouth - a judge Lewin elsewhere equated to the biblical archenemy of the Jews, Haman.
So when Nathan Lewin writes about Jewish issues, it's prudent to take him with a large grain of salt, and that's the case with his Epstein defense, as well.
Lewin plays up government 'entrapment' and the all the good Epstein allegedly did for agunot while failing to make clear that Epstein charged large amounts of money for his kidnap-coercion-torture service, which had by Epstein's own admission at trial been going on for many years. Epstein didn't generally provide this service for poor agunot who could not pay him. Instead, Epstein ran his ring like the money-making business it was.
Lawyers defend their clients. Lawyers all too often bend the truth in doing so and, sadly, are given much too much latitude by the courts to, essentially, lie.
What makes Lewin different are his often shortsighted poor choices. Labeling a sitting federal chief judge with a well documented reputation for tough sentencing and who had no history of anti-Semitism an anti-Semite in a bid to get Rubashkin a new sentence is deplorable. So too are most of Lewin's claims with regard to Epstein and his co-conspirators.
The stiffest sentence handed down in the Epstein case was by far the sentence given Epstein – 10 years in federal prison. Lewin complains about that sentence and about the far smaller sentences given Epstein’s top co-conspirators, a small number of whom sere sentenced to four years in prison.
What Lewin, however, fails to tell his readers is that the baseline minimum penalty for kidnapping in federal law for first time offenders without any enhancements for extreme violence, demands of ransom against the government, and heading a conspiracy to kidnap is 10.1 to 12.6 years in prison. That means Epstein got the lowest sentence possible under law, and his co-conspirators, due to plea deals and creative charging by prosecutors, got even less because their roles were much less.
Lewin rails against the FBI for conducting the sting and makes it clear he believes the sting and similar stings in other cases are wrong because they entice people to commit crimes they otherwise would not commit.
But this is settled law. Law enforcement is allowed to use deception to catch criminals, and that deception can include stings just like this. When cops go online and pretend to be 13-year-old girls in order to catch sexual predators, they haven’t done anything wrong – they’ve done something right.
By his own admission, this was not Epsteins first go around at coercing a get from a recalcitrant husband through threats of violence, and it clearly was not his first kidnapping. He wasn’t enticed by the FBI into committing a crime and entrapped; he was apprehended by the FBI in a legitimate sting.
Lewin’s article is likely meant as a fundraising tool to pay for the appeals of Epstein and some of the other ring members.
But that still does not absolve Lewin from responsibility for the damage he has done to haredi understanding of US law and the legal system. People who believe judges are anti-Semites and the FBI is evil are unlikely to respect the law. And when you add to that mix the haredi community’s ingrown disdain for any legal system that isn’t completely based on the Torah and rabbinic law, you get a noxious mix of scofflaw behavior and other abuses.
Lewin, a former top lay adviser to Agudath Israel of America, also fancies himself as a defender of shechita (kosher slaughter) just like his father, who wrote a fanciful propaganda book on shechita meant to combat moves in many Western countries to ban or heavily regulate it as part of cleaning up and making as humane as possible the meat slaughter industry. Those moves happened to coincide with the Nazis rise to power, and the Nazis exploited that move toward humane slaughter by taking the real problems with shechita and exaggerating them. The Nazis used those exaggerations as tools in their campaign to demonize Jews. Lewin is fond of equating PETA with the Nazis as a result, even though there is no direct line between one and the other, and he used an extension of the same logic to brand Rubashkin’s federal trial judge “Haman.”
Neither smear served his client – or the Jewish community as a whole – well, and his similar attempts now on behalf of Epstein and his co-conspirators will likely have the same deleterious results.
[Hat Tip: Sfek-Sfeika.]