Nechemya Weberman (nuh-HEHM’-yuh) was sentenced Tuesday. He was convicted in December of sustained sexual abuse of a child.
His trial put a spotlight on the insular Satmar Hasidic sect in Brooklyn and its strict rules governing clothing, social customs and interaction with the outside world.
The girl, now 18, testified for days about the abuse. She had been questioning her faith and dressing immodestly in violation of the sect’s customs, so she was sent to Weberman for counseling. She says the abuse started when she was 12 and lasted until she was 15.
Weberman testified that he “never, ever” abused her.
The court received dozens of letters from supporters of the defendant who described his life in the community as a counselor and a father.
“Nechemya Weberman is innocent of the crimes charged,” defense attorney George Farkas insisted at the sentencing.
Weberman said “no thank you” when asked if he wished to speak. He and his wife had no visible reaction to the sentence. The top charge carried a sentence of 25 years; he got consecutive terms for some of the other charges.
The defense argued that the girl was angry that Weberman had told her parents she had a boyfriend at age 15, forbidden in her community. Attorney Stacey Richman said the case boiled down to a simple “he said, she said,” and the girl was a petulant, calculating liar.
“The only evidence in this case of sexual abuse is the word of” the accuser, Richman told jurors. “She’s making things up in front of you as they occur.”
But the jury took just hours in December to convict Weberman on all counts.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes released a statement after the sentencing saying, “If there is one message to take away from this case it is that this office will pursue the evil of sexual abuse of a child no matter where it occurs in this county. We must protect our children from sexual predators.”
“The abuse of a child cannot be swept under the rug or dealt with by insular groups believing only they know what is best for their community. In this case it took the courage of a young woman to drive home the point that justice can only be achieved through the involvement of civil authorities charged with protecting all the people.”.