Friday, March 07, 2014
A controversial extortion and bribery case involving sex abuse in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community will be dropped by prosecutors Friday, the Daily News has learned.
But that may not be the last word in a convoluted case that turned into political football during last year’s contentious district attorney race.
All 10 counts against Samuel Kellner, 52, charged with trying to blackmail the son of accused molester Baruch Lebovits out of $400,000 and also bribing a witness, are expected to be dismissed “after a careful review of the evidence” by new DA Kenneth Thompson.
“We've reached this conclusion because we do not believe that we can prove these charges at trial,” Thompson said.
Holes in the account by the witness who was allegedly bribed were uncovered last summer and there were inconsistencies in the version given by Lebovits’s son, who was re-interviewed last week, a source said.
“This is long overdue,” said Kellner’s lawyer Niall MacGiollabhui, who had called the nearly three-year-old prosecution a corruption scandal and demanded that principals in the former DA's office be investigated.
Such an investigation is not planned, a source said, noting that most of those who made the decision to indict Kellner have left the office.
“That would be a serious problem,” said MacGiollabhui, who argued that his client was charged to save a convicted pedophile.
Lebovits was convicted in 2010 of abusing a boy, who Kellner referred to prosecutors, and was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison. But the conviction was overturned in 2012, and he’s currently awaiting a retrial.
Charges against Kellner were brought in 2011 after another man was arrested — and eventually pleaded guilty — for trying to extort Lebovits.
Lawyers for Lebovits will be in court Friday to demand that the judge won’t accept the dismissal and recuse Thompson, claiming the DA promised he’ll get rid of the Kellner case during the campaign.
“Any suggestion that they can’t get a conviction is strange, and what makes it stranger is that they have tape recordings (of the alleged extortion),” said one of the lawyers, Nathan Dershowitz.
“They have all the evidence they need.”
The Lebovits family is also considering filing a lawsuit against Kellner, which will allegedly paint him as a serial extortionist and point to evidence prosecutors ignored, sources said.
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