Tuesday, July 23, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Juror’s bombshell claim: Hasidic suspects can’t get a fair trial in Brooklyn 

Jurors in a sodomy case against a Hasidic Brooklyn man expressed anti-Semitic bias even before the trial went underway, a member of the panel said in a bombshell interview.

The troubling assertion was made by the lone holdout, whose refusal to convict Alexander Rogalsky, 29, on a decade-old allegation of molestation led to a mistrial last week.

"They were saying he was guilty before the trial even started," the 51-year-old woman told the News. "To them, he looked guilty even before we heard any evidence."

She said the slanted discussions started during jury selection and continued through contentious deliberations. Jurors are routinely instructed not to form an opinion or discuss the case before all evidence is presented - but this jury ignored that order, the juror claimed.

"There was a lot of talk about the Jewish religion and one girl said it was a 'Jewish trial,'" the juror recalled.

Her allegations boost defense lawyers' long-standing contention that Hasidic Jews face bias because of their distinctive looks and customs.

"When an obviously Orthodox Jewish defendant goes on trial, (he's) facing a subconscious prejudice," said Michael Farkas, who represented Nechemia Weberman, a Satmar counselor who was convicted last year of molesting a teenage girl in a supercharged case that many say put the entire Hasidic community on trial.

Rogalsky, who works as a cook, is accused of bedding a 12-year-old boy he counseled at an upstate sleepaway camp in 2003. The alleged incident happened at Rogalsky's Crown Heights home after the summer at Camp Bnei Menachem.

The boy told his mom about the incident in 2006 but didn't press charges until 2011 and soon after filed a civil suit, records show.

The statute of limitations had elapsed on most sex charges, so Rogalsky was slapped with a single count of criminal sex act. The alleged victim, now 22, testified in during the trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court and prosecutors also played a recorded conversation in which Rogalsky didn't deny misconduct.

"It seemed something did happen between them, but there wasn't enough evidence (to convict on the lone count)," said the holdout juror, who also lives in Crown Heights, which has a high Hasidic population.

A spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes strongly disagreed.

"This is a strong case and we intend to retry it," said the spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer. "The defendant received a fair trial."


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