Thursday, February 19, 2015

D.C. Rabbi Barry Freundel scheduled to enter guilty plea 

Barry Freundel, a long-time D.C. Orthodox rabbi, is expected to plead guilty Thursday afternoon to dozens of charges involving the secret videotaping of nude women as they prepared for a sacred bath, Freundel's defense attorney said.

A D.C. Superior Court hearing in the case, initially set for 10:00 a.m., was pushed back to 1 p.m. and moved to a larger courtroom to allow enough space for any victims who wished to attend.

Freundel's attorney, Jeffrey Harris, said his client planned to plead guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism. A guilty plea is not final until a defendant formally enters it in court and it is approved by a judge.

Freundel, 63, was arrested in October on charges that he videotaped six women in the nude while he was at Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown.

At a meeting at the U.S. Attorney's Office last week , prosecutors said there may be as many as 150 women allegedly videotaped by the rabbi as they prepared for a private bath known as a mikvah, according to three people briefed on the investigation.

A mikvah is used most frequently by people converting to Judaism and by observant Jewish women seven days after the end of their menstrual cycle as a way of becoming closer to God. Prosecutors have alleged Freundel hid a camera in a clock radio in an area where the women changed for the baths.

Since Freundel's October arrest, prosecutors have twice asked D.C. Superior Court judge for extensions at previous hearing as they continued to investigate the case. During earlier hearings, some people displayed signs outside of the courtroom urging District prosecutors not to offer Freundel a plea.

For 25 years, Freundel served as the rabbi at Kesher Israel, where prosecutors say the videotaping occurred. The synagogue's board fired Freundel in November and told him to leave the synagogue-owned home by Jan. 1, which he hasn't, leading to another dispute.

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