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Monday, January 28, 2013

MONSEY - Dovid Kohn pleads guilty on sex abuse case

NEW CITY — With his wife and two daughters sitting in a Rockland courtroom, Dovid Kohn of Monsey admitted today that he had oral sex with one of his daughter’s female friends when the girl was 12 to 15 years old.

Kohn, 60, an Israeli national living illegally in the United States, faces eight years in state prison when sentenced May 7 on his guilty plea to first-degree course of sexual conduct with a child. He also faces deportation.

He admitted having oral sex with the girl between 2004 and 2006. His plea covered 35 felony counts of sexual abuse.

The girl, now 21, reported the acts to authorities last year. At that time she also spoke with Kohn about the sexual acts while wearing a body wire and through telephone calls recorded by Ramapo police.

Kohn challenged the charges, sitting through one hearing on Jan. 21 when prosecutor Arthur Ferraro played audio tapes of his conversations with the girl, whose identity is being withheld. The hearing was scheduled to continue today on the admissibility of the tapes, when he pleaded guilty.

“We’re just happy the victim didn’t have to testify in open court and be subject to cross examination,” Ferraro said. “She was prepared to testify.”

Kohn’s lawyers, former District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz and Deborah Wolikow Loewenberg, said Kohn first found it hard to plead guilty in front of his family. They noted he could have faced 25 years on each of the 35 counts.

“It was a tragedy for the victim,” Gribetz said. “Justice has been done.”

Several other people in the surrounding ultra-Orthodox community have pleaded guilty without prison or jail time. In some cases, victims’ families have been pressured by community leaders to back down and not pursue charges.

Rockland prosecutors say they are getting more cooperation from victims, fighting against pressure

Rabbi Nossom Leiter, an advocate for sexually abused victims in the ultra-Orthodox community, said Kohn’s “plea with prison time should serve as a paradigm of how to confront the molestation crisis, as a community. Sometimes a strong victim can actually force a plea with incarceration.”   Before he pleaded guilty, Kohn spent time talking privately to his wife in court as his lawyers shuttled between him and his family and prosecutors and Judge William Nelson.

Under questioning from Ferraro, Kohn looked toward his wife – who sat stone-faced in the courtroom - before admitting he had oral sex on the girl at his house at 65 Saddle River Road and having the girl performed oral sex on him.

He told Nelson that he knew the girl was a friend of one of his daughters and he felt embarrassed to admit what he had done in front of his wife and two of his daughters.

According to one transcript of their recorded conversation, the woman told Kohn what he had done to her and “you ruined my life,” saying she cut herself and tried to commit suicide. She told him no man in the religious community would marry her because of him.

Kohn told her he wanted to apologize and didn’t want to hurt her. He accused her of trying to blackmail him when she said she would go to the police if he didn’t admit what he had done to her and he would “fight like hell.”

The transcript says Kohn told her: “The fact of the matter is because I want to avoid publicity you have a certain power over me. okay, and I understand that. I am apologizing from my heart, but don’t force me to say something that I don’t want to say. You can’t understand that I would like desperately to turn the clocks back.”

Authorities are not sure of Kohn’s identity, though he said in court that he’s lived in Monsey for the past 25 to 28 years.

Ferraro called him a “man of mystery,” comparing his years of sexually abusing the Rockland girl to the actions of Nechemya Weberman, an uncertified counselor and member of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Jewish community in Brooklyn.

Weberman abused a young woman for three years and was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 103 years in prison.

“What he’s alleged to have done is very similar to Weberman, except he’s not a counselor,” Ferraro said. “We’re not sure of his true identity.”

Ramapo Detective Sgt. John Lynch said other agencies have done a background check on Kohn.   “Basically, we have asked the FBI to assist us in determining his actual identity,” Lynch said. “At this point we are uncertain as to who he actually is.”

He said detectives would look to confirm the information Kohn provided during his guilty plea in court. Anyone with information on Kohn can call the police at 845-357-2400

In court Ferraro questioned Kohn on his background and why he also went by Avraham Perl and had a driver’s license in that name. Kohn hesitated and seemed unwilling to answer.

Kohn admitted Perl was a family name and that he was born in Israel in November 1952 and came to the United States nearly three decades ago. He said he attended yeshiva in Jerusalem and worked on religious documents. In the United States, he did videos and photography.

“I am not a citizen,” Kohn said. “I don’t want to say I am here illegally. I overstayed my visa.”

Nelson told Kohn he would most likely be deported after serving his prison time. Nelson said he would sentence Kohn to eight years – though Ferraro asked for nine years – and 10 years probation, and place him on the sex offender registry. He would pay fees of $1,025.    


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