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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Satmar Yeshiva leader faces SEX abuse charges

NEW YORK — A rabbi at a religious school in New York's ultra-orthodox Jewish community has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing students, a law enforcement official says.

The arrest of Yoel Malik, 33, of Brooklyn comes amid mounting pressure to report allegations of abuse within the insular, secretive community, the largest outside Israel, and barely a week after a respected religious counselor in the same sect was sentenced to 103 years in prison for sexually abusing a girl.

Both cases come from within the Satmar Hasidic sect, the official said.

Malik was taken into custody Wednesday after reports he may have brought two students to motels for sexual liaisons, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the case and spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity. A third encounter was reported in a car.

The official said the victims were all teenage boys, ages 14 to 16, and the encounters took place between March of last year and last week.

A news release from the police department did not mention the school or identify Malik as a rabbi. Instead, it provided his name, age and address and said he was charged with "sexual crimes" involving three teenage males.

It listed the charges as 12 counts of sexual abuse, four counts of criminal sexual acts, 11 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of forcible touching.

The school, located in Borough Park in Brooklyn, has been closed amid financial disputes with the family who runs it and has been described as a small, private establishment for at-risk kids. It's not clear how long it has been closed

The allegations arose through an anonymous tip to a confidential hotline. Malik is part of the family that ran the school in Brooklyn.

It has been difficult to prosecute cases of abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community. Families are encouraged to speak to their rabbis instead of going to secular authorities, and when they do go to police or prosecutors, they are often harassed or shunned.

In the case of Nechemya Weberman, convicted last month of sustained sexual abuse, the accuser testified that her family was threatened and harassed.

Four men were charged with trying to bribe the girl, now 18, and her husband with $500,000 to drop the case against Weberman, 54, an unlicensed counselor who worked with families for years.

She had been sent to him because she had been questioning her faith and needed help getting back on the religious path, she testified. Prosecutors said there were at least 10 other victims, but the statute of limitations passed on many of them.

Weberman maintains his innocence and said he never abused her or anyone else.

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