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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Court nixes conviction of Brooklyn rabbi on sex-abuse charges

Rabbi Baruch Lebovits


A Brooklyn rabbi's conviction on charges of molesting a teenage boy was tossed aside on appeal Wednesday because detectives failed to disclose documents regarding bribery allegations.

Baruch Lebovits, 61, was sent to 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison based on testimony of a 22-year-old admitted drug user who claimed the rabbi sexually abused him at age 16.

Only after the alleged victim testified in March 2010 did prosecutors hand over notes indicating he had told police that Lebovits tried to bribe him.

But by then, the defense questions opened the door for prosecutors to ask about the bribery offer, which the rabbi later denied.

Having the documents in advance "would have prevented me from hurting my own client," said defense lawyer Arthur Aidala.

The four-judge appeals panel agreed, writing that the late disclosure "set a trap for the defendant which had already sprung at the time the notes were finally furnished."

"Total victory and it's probably the end of the case," declared Alan Dershowitz, who handled the appeal alongside Aidala.

The severity of Lebovits's sentence had sent shock waves through the close-knit Jewish community of Borough Park, where the purported crimes occurred. And the twists in the story didn't end there.

Lebovits, a wealthy owner of a travel agency, was sprung last April pending appeal after spending a year in prison.

The surprising release came after the district attorney's office charged a Hasid with extortion, saying he offered to make the case go away if the rabbi coughed up $400,000. When Lebovits refused, the star trial witness emerged.

Those allegations were not part of the appeal but are sure to come up in a potential new trial.

"We are prepared to retry the case," said a spokesman for Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes.

The defense said they're hopeful that both sides will reach another resolution.

"I can't believe a responsible prosecutor will bring it again to trial," said Dershowitz. "It's inconceivable to me."
The New York Times

Appeals Panel Overturns Conviction of Lebovits in Sexual Abuse Case

Saying that a detective’s handwritten notes had not been promptly turned over to defense lawyers before trial, a New York appeals court panel this week overturned the 2010 conviction of a cantor who had already served one year in prison for the repeated sexual assault of a teenager.

The criminal case against the cantor, Baruch Lebovits, now 61, had been among the high-profile achievements of the sex-crimes unit of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office in its campaign to persuade members of the Hasidic community to cooperate more with government authorities in the prosecution of offenders.

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