Saturday, March 01, 2014

Prosecutors get time limit to decide on extortion case related to sex abuse allegations in Brooklyn's Hasidic community 

 Samuel Kellner, 49, is accused of trying to extort relatives of cantor Baruch Lebovits, whose conviction for sex abuse was overturned.

Next Friday is D-Day for a controversial extortion case centered around sex abuse allegations in Brooklyn's Hasidic community.

A judge ordered prosecutors to make up their minds by the end of next week on whether to dismiss charges against Samuel Kellner, accused of extorting an alleged molester and bribing a witness against him, or take the case to trial.

And she blamed the nearly three-year delay on members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community “inserting themselves to proceedings that are none of their business.”

“They muddy the water,” said Brooklyn Supreme court Justice Patricia DiMango.

The latest hold-up involves information sought by the defense regarding an alleged civil settlement between the accused abuser, Cantor Baruch Lebovits, and the witness against him; an investigation into another Lebovits accuser who recanted amid tempering allegations; and prosecution notes dating back years.

“It’s a scandal of staggering proportions,” Kellner's lawyer, Niall MacGiollabhui, said of how the case has been handled, blasting unnamed “rotten, corrupt people in the (district attorney's) office.”

Prosecutors have been re-interviewing witnesses in recent weeks, including Lebovits's son who contends Kellner tried to extort him, sources said. Lebovits is awaiting a retrial after his 2010 sex abuse conviction was overturned on appeal.

While Kellner's side claims he's being railroaded to protect Lebovits, the cantor's circle accuses Kellner of being a serial extortionist who went all-out after Lebovits after not getting paid off.

"There's no end in sight," Kellner's lawyer said at some point during the hearing, predicting a dismissal - which has been contemplated since last summer -and declaring he'd still love to expose the truth at trial.
"My expectation is that it gets to trial," said assistant district attorney Kevin O'Donnell.

DiMango ordered him to make the decision by March 7.

But the judge will not be there to hear that - she's stepping off the bench this month for a TV career in Hollywood.


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