After two weeks of intense testimonies at Brooklyn Criminal Court, the trial of Nechemya Weberman—the ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor accused of sexually abusing a teen girl in Brooklyn starting when she was 12—is almost at an end. Lawyers got a chance to present their closing statements yesterday as jurors began deliberating the case today. Defense lawyer Stacey Richman argued that Weberman had been unfairly vilified: “During the Salem witch trials, people would never be given a fair shake. In the 1950s, it took one word from a neighbor to get someone accused of being a Communist,” she said. “What’s the most we can say today? Child sexual abuser. And it is an awful thing. But the wrongful accusation of a child sexual abuser is even worse.”
Although many of the people who testified said Weberman was a leader in the Satmar Hasidic community—despite the fact he admitted to defrauding his own charity on the stand—Richman downplayed that aspect. “If Mr. Weberman’s so powerful, why can’t he keep [her] in school?” she asked. “They want you to believe Mr. Weberman is the Vaad-Father,” she added, referring to Vaad Ha’Tnius, the modesty committee that allegedly enforces the strict Satmar rules and dress codes.
She also attacked the teen who brought the accusations forward: “The only evidence in this case is the word of [the alleged victim.] That’s it,” Richman said, questioning why she didn't come forward sooner, and why there were no other witnesses or DNA evidence. “Three years of oral sex? That’s a lot of semen!” she quipped, referring to the fact the teen saw Weberman four times a week over a three year period.
“What happens in the defendant’s office stays in the defendant’s office,” prosecutor Linda Weinman argued, referring to the room where Weberman and the teen would meet for their counseling sessions. As for why she didn't come forward sooner: “She lived in an insular, male-dominated society that forbade any contact with the outside world,” Weinman said. “Accept your fate. Never question authority.” She also raised the point that Weberman was jealous of the teen's boyfriend: “She told him she met a boy who’s her age, not somebody who’s big and fat and old enough to be her father or her grandfather,” Weinman said. “[Weberman] was jealous. He wanted to get rid of a rival.”