New York – In a major development, sending shockwaves through Borough Park’s tight-knit Jewish community, VIN News has confirmed that a Brooklyn rabbi who was sentenced to a 10 ½ to 32 year prison term for child molestation a year ago was released on $250,000 bail and house arrest pending the appeal of his conviction, after it was determined that witnesses who had testified against him had been paid to falsely claim that they had been molested by 60 year old Rabbi Boruch Lebovits.
Lebovits was represented on appeal by high-power attorney Alan Dershowitz and his original defense lawyer Arthur Aidala.
As was reported earlier on VIN News, Samuel Kellner, 49, was arraigned today in Brooklyn Supreme Court for 10 counts of grand larceny, perjury and conspiracy that can land him behind bars for up to 21 years.
In an exclusive interview with VIN News, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind stressed the importance of making sure that no one is ever convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.
“It is reprehensible and an embarrassment when someone does something like this and I don’t care what his motives were. I don’t know what the end result will be in this case, but we need to be extremely careful so that even a single innocent person isn’t falsely accused. I can’t tell you how many cases we have on a regular basis and we are so careful because I wouldn’t want to be the one being accused of a crime that I didn’t commit.”
According to the NY Daily News, Kellner pleaded not guilty and his lawyer Israel Fried described him as an advocate of sexual-abuse victims, which made him a lightening rod in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood.
“It seems reasonable that people in the community who are aware of him bringing people to justice will have a vendetta against my client,” he said.
Kellner allegedly attempted to extort $400,000 from Lebovitz after learning in 2008 that a young man had brought charges of sexual abuse against Rabbi Lebovits.
When the family refused to pay, Kellner allegedly paid off witnesses to lie and claim that Lebovits had abused them as well, resulting in greater charges being brought against him.
An investigation into Lebovits – a wealthy man who owned a travel agency – began when Kellner’s close relative accused the rabbi of inappropriate touching, sources said.
Lebovits was hit with a misdemeanor, but when a second accuser – the one paid by Kellner – came forward, the rabbi was slapped with felony counts, prosecutors said.
The charges relating to Kellner’s relative were eventually dismissed, and the second accuser later refused to testify at trial.
Meanwhile, representatives for Kellner told the Lebovits family to pay up or another victim would come forward, prosecutors said.
When the family refused, a third accuser stepped forward and gave testimony in March 2010 that led to Lebovits’ conviction.
A source told the Daily News that third accuser was also tainted, having been offered $50,000 to take the stand.
“We believe everything was premeditated all along. All they wanted was the money,” said a relative of Lebovits who asked not to be named. “The DA has him on recordings.”
Lebovits is expected to use these new developments to challenge his original conviction.