Monday, July 18, 2011
New Jersey rabbi, wife surrender to kidnap charge in bizarre divorce-forcing scheme
TRENTON, N.J. — The FBI says a New Jersey couple abducted an Israeli man, beat him and threatened to bury him alive if he didn’t give his wife a religious divorce.
Federal authorities say the victim had refused to give his wife a “get,” or a divorce sanctioned by the Rabbinical Court, preventing her from remarrying.
The victim left Israel for the United States. Authorities say David and Judy Wax, of Lakewood, N.J., kidnapped him, robbed him and forced him to say he would grant the divorce.
David Wax is also accused of threatening to have the victim’s father killed if he didn’t pay the wife $100,000.
Defense attorney Steven Secare (SEE’-care) says Judy Wax will plead not guilty Monday in federal court. A message left for David Wax’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned.
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A rabbi and his wife allegedly kidnapped an Israeli man, beat him up and threatened to bury him alive if he didn't give his wife a religious divorce.
David and Judy Wax, from Lakewood, New Jersey, are accused of luring Yisrael Meir Briskman to their comfortable suburban home, where they allegedly handcuffed him, blindfolded him and threatened to have his father killed.
The couple, who have eight children, were charged today in federal court after they surrendered to the FBI.
At one point Wax, 49, allegedly showed Mr Briskman a body bag and told him 'if he did not comply, he would be buried alive in the Pocono Mountains', according to court documents.
Then he laid the body bag on top of 36-year-old Mr Briskman, and said: 'For you to get used to the size.
If found guilty of kidnapping the pair could be sentenced to life in prison.
The couple are not thought to be related to Mr Briskman, and police said they had no conclusive motive for the kidnapping.
Mr Briskman had fled Israel two years previously, after refusing to grant his wife a 'get', an Orthodox Jewish divorce document which allows a woman to remarry.
At the time the High Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem issued an order to all observant Jews to shun Mr Briskman until he agreed to the religious divorce.
In an unprecedented move, rabbinical judges used the secular press to circulate the announcement, as he had been refusing to grant the divorce for five years, saying he wanted custody of his son.
He ended up in Brooklyn, New York. In October 2010 he travelled to Lakewood, where he hoped to work with Wax on a book he was writing about the Talmud.
The Waxes allegedly persuaded Mr Briskman to come to their house, in an upscale, suburban area, in the early hours of the morning on October 16.
When he arrived two men, who have not been identified, allegedly grabbed him and started punching him in the face.
Then the attackers handcuffed and blindfolded the victim, before Mr Wax allegedly told him he wouldn't be released until he granted his wife a get.
According to court documents, Wax then lifted Mr Briskman's head off the floor so he could see under the blindfold.
Bizarrely, the rabbi was wearing a white cowboy heat. He allegedly said, 'do you like my hat?', before kicking Mr Briskman in the ribs.
The victim claims he was held hostage for several hours, during which time Wax threatened to bury him alive.
He said he agreed to the divorce within the first 30 minutes of his ordeal, but Wax made him repeat his consent over and over again, in both English and Hebrew.
Then he allegedly bundled Mr Briskman into a taxi and ordered the driver to take them to an ATM, where he attempted to make the victim withdraw cash.
According to court documents, the taxi driver told the two men that a car was following him.
Wax allegedly said he knew who the men were, and said there was an 'Italian team' in the car who would take Mr Briskman to the Poconos and bury him alive.
The rabbi also allegedly called Mr Briskman's father in Israel, threatening him with a 'special gift... called a bullet... in your head' unless he agreed to pay his son's wife $100,000.
He also claimed that others wanted to give Mr Briskman to 'mice in the mountains to eat him', but he had been spared because he consented to the divorce.
They then returned to the house, but later Wax's wife drove Mr Briskman back to Brooklyn, where he was treated for a broken nose, black eyes and several cuts to his head, according to documents.
Before dumping him, the couple allegedly robbed Mr Briskman of his Palm Pilot, thumb drive, hat, coat and around $300 in cash.
Wax's lawyer, Michael Ansell, said: 'He has no history of any type of criminal behaviours or violent behaviours. He's the father of eight children.
'We're confident that when all the facts are made public, he'll be cleared of these charges and his good and honourable name will be restored.'
An attorney for Judy Wax said she would plead not guilty.
After today's hearing the couple were released on $500,000 bail. They also had to surrender their passports