Monday, February 11, 2013

Counselor’s Penalty for Child Sexual Abuse Is Halved, to 50 Years 

The state's corrections department has reduced by more than half the prison sentence of Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed Hasidic counselor from Brooklyn who was convicted in December of child sexual abuse charges.

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Mr. Weberman was sentenced last month by a judge to 103 years in prison, but the state cut his penalty to 50 years, making him eligible for release for good behavior when he is 97, in 2055. His maximum sentence would end in 2062.

Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, said Friday that the sentencing reduction was a result of a state penal law that mandates a maximum sentence of 50 years for the combination of felonies of which Mr. Weberman was convicted. The law does not bind judges, who can legally impose longer sentences if they choose.

The sentence reduction was previously reported by The Daily News.

William Gibney, head of the criminal practice special litigation unit at the Legal Aid Society, said it would be unlikely that the sentencing judge in this case, Justice John G. Ingram of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, would have been unaware that his prolonged sentence would later be reduced.

"If a judge wants to put on the record that he or she thinks that a longer sentence is appropriate, then they will often just impose that sentence," Mr. Gibney said. The longer sentence can send a message about the judge's view of the severity of the crime, or guide a parole board in its future decisions, he said.

Mr. Weberman, 54, was convicted of repeatedly molesting a girl during therapy sessions over three years, beginning when she was 12. Before sentencing him on 59 counts of abuse, Justice Ingram told the court, "The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done."

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the New York courts, said Justice Ingram sentenced the defendant as he saw fit. "The end result will remain the same, life in prison," he said.


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