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Monday, July 8, 2013

Sam Kellner Lawyers Call For 'Outside Investigation' In Chasidic Whistleblower Case

On the eve of his scheduled trial date, prosecutors turned over to Sam Kellner’s defense attorneys evidence that appears highly damaging to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ case against the chasidic sex abuse whistleblower, prompting his lawyers to call for an “outside investigation.”

Kellner, a resident of Borough Park, is charged with paying a witness — a man The Jewish Week refers to as a “Yoel” — to fabricate claims of sexual abuse by Baruch Lebovits, a cantor and prominent member of the Munkacs chasidic community. 

Kellner, whose son is also an alleged Lebovits victim — and who brought additional Lebovits victims to the police — is also charged with attempting to extort money from the Lebovits family via emissaries sent to Lebovits’ son Meyer.

The evidence, which was turned over last Friday, three days before the scheduled start of the trial on Monday, July 8, includes notes of interviews prosecutors conducted with a key witness over the past two weeks. 

In the interviews, Yoel made a series of inconsistent statements, including some that directly contradict his grand jury testimony against Kellner.

For example, while Yoel testified in the Kellner grand jury that he knew Lebovits from synagogue, in a July 1 interview with Nicholas Batsidis and Joseph Alexis, two assistant district attorneys, and Rackets Division Chief Michael Vecchione, he claimed that he had “never seen Baruch Lebovits in his life.”

In the same interview, Yoel also denied picking Lebovits out of a photo array, which, along with Yoel’s statements to a detective, led to Lebovits’ arrest. However, five days earlier, on June 26, he told prosecutors that Lebovits “could have molested me. [I] can’t really say.”

During the course of these interviews, Yoel also told prosecutors that the reason he came forward with his allegations against Kellner was because, according to their summary of the conversation, he had become “disenchanted” with him after Kellner failed to pay him “a fee that the two had agreed upon for his false testimony.” However, in the Kellner grand jury, Yoel testified that Kellner gave him approximately $10,000 to testify against Lebovits.

All of the inconsistencies and contradictions in Yoel’s statements seriously undermine the prosecution’s case against Kellner, experts say.

According to former Manhattan prosecutor and defense attorney Mark Bederow, “This witness has self-immolated. 

First, he swears to a pattern of years-long abuse by Lebovits. Then he reverses course and claims that he lied under oath and that although he knows Lebovits, he fabricated the abuse claims against him because Kellner paid him to do so. 

Then, on the eve of [Kellner’s] trial, he contradicts both prior sworn statements by bizarrely claiming he has never met Lebovits, but that [Lebovits] ‘may’ have molested him. 

He then alters his sworn testimony by claiming that he had not been paid by Kellner before perjuring himself at Kellner’s request.

“I don’t see any set of circumstances under which the DA can proceed with Yoel as a witness against Kellner.”

An e-mail to DA spokesman Jerry Schmetterer seeking comment on whether, in light of these recent disclosures, the DA plans to dismiss the charges against Kellner relating to Yoel did not receive a response.

READ MORE AT: The Jewish Week

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