Monday, April 13, 2015

Feds dismiss one kidnapping count in Lakewood rabbi conspiracy trial 

Federal prosecutors in the conspiracy and kidnapping trial of a Lakewood rabbi on Monday dismissed one of the charges in a case alleging the religious leader arranged for Orthodox Jewish husbands to be held and tortured until they gave their wives religious divorces.

The announcement came hours before federal prosecutors were set to deliver closing arguments in a two-month long trial in which the government claims three rabbis and the son of one of them distorted Jewish law for their financial gain.

The dismissal of the single charge still leaves jurors to consider four other counts in the indictment against Rabbi Mendel Epstein, his son David "Ari" Epstein, and rabbis Jay Goldstein and Binyamin Stimler.

The government dismissed the charge pertaining to Usher Chaimowitz, a Brooklyn man whose roommate testified they were ambushed, bound and beaten on Aug. 22, 2011, until Chaimowitz agreed to give his wife a religious divorce, known as a get.

David Epstein's attorney had sought dismissal of that charge after he presented witness testimony, phone records and photographs of his client on a business trip in Ohio when that incident occurred.

That charge also pertained to Stimler and Goldstein, who both live in Brooklyn, but was dismissed against them as well because the charge was based on a federal law requiring suspects to cross state lines to commit a crime. David Epstein, who lives in New Jersey, is the only one of the three who would have had to travel to another state to commit the Chaimowitz beating.

All four men are charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping between 2009 and 2013 and with attempting to kidnap a husband who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent in a federal sting in October 2013.

David Epstein is charged with participating in the beatings of two men in Lakewood on Dec. 1, 2009, and Oct. 17, 2010.

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