A 17-year-old girl who was raised in Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community testified in criminal court Tuesday that an older man who was supposed to counsel her instead sexually violated her, starting when she was just 12 years old.
The thin, blonde-haired witness pointed the finger at 54 year old Nechemya Weberman, director of a group called Vaad Hatznius, translated from Yiddish to mean "the modesty squad." It turns out Weberman was never even licensed to work as a child counselor.
The teen said she started getting in trouble in school in 6th grade, because she questioned the strict codes imposed by leaders of the Satmar Hasidic Orthodox sect in Williamsburg. A family friend, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, told PIX 11 outside court, ""She wasn't being rebellious....just an inquisitive, out-of-the-box thinker."
The accuser's school, the United Talmudical Academy, suggested she get counseling. The girl testified that from the first session, Weberman made sexual overtures, beginning with requests for oral sex.
She said the abuse escalated, with Weberman touching her breasts and vagina.
At one point in the testimony, the teenager struggled to relay an alleged incident that she said happened in the spring of 2009, when she was 14. The girl said she hadn't left her room in days, because she was despondent. Her mother was away on vacation, and her father told her by intercom system that he was going out. Soon, the teen testified, Weberman appeared in her bedroom.
"I was very depressed and wearing pajamas," the girl recalled on the stand. "He started undressing me and asked why I didn't want to see him anymore." The girl then graphically explained her recall of what happened next. "He put his penis on my vagina and it went in a little bit. " Did you say stop?, the prosecutor asked. "No, I didn't have the strength. I wasn't eating for three days. I wanted to die."
The girl testified in February 2011 she finally told a female counselor affiliated with another organization about the abuse, and this woman brought her to the police to report Weberman. The counselor was arrested the same day.
The victim said the abuse lasted for three years, from the time she was 12 until she was 15. She then met a boyfriend, whom she recently married several months ago.
A number of the teen's friends from an alternative religious school turned up in court to offer support. One told PIX 11 she was 14, when she was abused by a 24 year old man. "I didn't report it," the 18 year old, known as C.B., told P IX 11. Would you report it now, we asked. "Honestly, no," the young woman said. "I wish I had the strength she did."
Another friend of the accuser, 18-year-old Debra, said she was just 14 years old when her grandfather, who's 50 years older than her, started sexually abusing her. Did you ask why he was doing this, PIX 11 asked. "His excuse was 'I love you,'" Debra replied.
A 32-year-old man named Joey Diangello told PIX 11 Weberman once worked for his family. Diangello was interviewed by PIX 11 in 2009, for a special report on sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, and revealed to us he was raped in a mikvah bath in Williamsburg, by an unknown man, when he was just 7 years old. He remains haunted by the sexual assault and said he always felt uncomfortable around Weberman as a child, starting when he was 10. "I sat down on his lap, which was very inappropriate that I was sitting on his lap, and I felt an erection," Diangello said. "Being a survivor of rape, I knew what that was, and it scared the hell out of me."
Weberman's defense attorney, George Farkas, told PIX 11, "This case will not be tried outside the courtroom. We are going to bring everything out."
During cross-examination Tuesday afternoon, the defense team got the accuser to admit she developed an intense hatred for her religion—and certain members of her community.
The defense will try to prove there was a motive for her allegations against Weberman.
The case initially gained notoriety, after large sectors of the Williamsburg community joined together for a fundraiser... to get cash for Weberman's criminal defense costs.