Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rabbis convicted of Sopranos-style New Jersey divorce kidnap plot 

Three Orthodox rabbis have been convicted for a Sopranos-style plot in which they planned the torture of Jewish men who refused to divorce their wives.

Rabbis Mendel Epstein, Jay Goldstein and Binyamin Stimler were found guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping in a New Jersey federal court on Tuesday.

Rabbi Goldstein, 60, and Rabbi Stimler, 39, were also convicted on an additional charge of attempted kidnapping.

The rabbis were part of a gang accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars to torture men with electric cattle prods and screwdrivers for refusing to grant gets to their wives.

They were arrested in October 2013 after an undercover FBI operation in which an agent posed as an Orthodox woman.

The sting ended in a warehouse with two of the rabbis and six other men wearing ski masks, and carrying surgical blades and a 30-foot nylon rope.

Rabbi Stimler's lawyer, Nathan Lewin, said the verdict was "shocking" and said his client had been at the warehouse to witness the ceremonial signing of the get.

Aidan O'Connor, lawyer for 60-year-old Rabbi Goldstein, said: "I don't think this was a traditional kidnapping."

Robert Stahl, defending Rabbi Epstein, said his client "still firmly believes that he was protecting women's rights".

Rabbi Epstein's son, David Epstein, was cleared of kidnap on Tuesday.

He called his acquittal "bittersweet" following his father's conviction.

The rabbis, who plan to appeal, are due to be sentenced on July 15. They face life in prison.

In a Sopranos episode broadcast in 1999, mafia boss Tony Soprano becomes engaged in a row with Hasidic Jews over a man's refusal to give his wife a get.


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