Accuser in Orthodox Abuse Trial Testified out of 'Responsibility'

The Wall Street Journal/November 30, 2012

The young woman who accused a respected ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor of sexual abuse wrapped up her testimony Friday afternoon, telling jurors that she came forward because she felt a sense of "responsibility."

Asked by prosecutors why she decided to step forward after three years of allegedly being abused by Nechemya Weberman, 54 years old, the 17-year-old testified, "I felt like I had a responsibility."

"I didn't want anybody else to go through what I went through," she said.

Asked why she did not come forward sooner, the girl said "I thought they would never believe me, because he is supposedly a God in Williamsburg."

The girl also told jurors that Weberman made her watch pornography on a computer in his office.

She spent more than 15 hours over four days on the stand in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The majority of the young woman's testimony came during tough questioning from defense attorneys, who argue the girl singled out their client and the Satmar sect because of its ultra-Orthodox policies as pay back for the arrest of a former love interest.

Weberman is accused of sexually abusing the girl dozens of times in his Williamsburg home and office over a three-year span beginning when she was 12 years old.

At one point Friday, the trial had to be halted when the accuser started crying as defense attorney Michael Farkas questioned her about specific details from earlier testimony describing some of the alleged sexual acts committed by Weberman.

The trial has put the insular Satmar Hasidic community, an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism, under the spotlight, drawing packed crowds each day, with some having to wait outside in hopes of getting a courtroom seat.

For a second day, court officers checked the cell phones of all spectators before they entered the courtroom and an undercover officer kept watch over the alleged victim while she was in the courthouse.

Cell phones were banned from the audience on Thursday after four men were arrested for allegedly taking photos in the courtroom, including one of the victim while she was on the stand.

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office charged the four men on Friday with criminal contempt, a misdemeanor.

The trial, which was originally expected to last a week, continues Monday with the girl's parents expected to testify for the prosecution. Weberman may testify in his defense later in the week.

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