Friday, August 16, 2013

Charges against principal dropped; boy wouldn't sign assault case vs. rabbi 

Charges against a religious-school leader accused of assaulting a student were dismissed Thursday after the boy and his parents declined to sign a complaint.

Meilech Spitzer, 60, a rabbi and longtime principal of United Talmudical Academy, had been accused of slapping a 10-year-old student hard enough to leave bruises and to leave his eye, ear and face swollen. Spitzer was charged in February with misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

But Justice Alan Simon dismissed the charges because prosecutors and police could not get a signed misdemeanor complaint from the child. He also dismissed an order of protection that Spitzer not have any physical contact with the child. Authorities had 90 days from Spitzer's arraignment April 18 under the state speedy-trial law to move the case forward. The deadline elapsed July 17.

Spitzer, a longtime educator who lives in Brooklyn but has family in Spring Valley, was rushed out a side door shortly after the 20-minute court session ended. He and the school have previously declined comment.

The complaints charging Spitzer were signed by Spring Valley Detective Kevin Freeman, who didn't witness the incident and therefore his accusations are hearsay, Spitzer's lawyer, Robert Conklin, wrote in court papers seeking dismissal of the case. For the case to continue, prosecutors "must file a supporting deposition signed by an individual who experienced the incident first-hand," Conklin said.

Gary Lee Heavner, an executive assistant district attorney, told Simon that prosecutors tried to persuade the boy and his family to sign a misdemeanor complaint.

"The people did try to prosecute this case," Heavner told the judge. "We were not able to convince the family."

The incident had been reported on some blogs that cater to the ultra-Orthodox community. One blog posted purported photos of the boy's face.

The UTA is the educational arm of the Satmar Hasidim and runs several schools in Brooklyn and suburban counties like Rockland and Orange.


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