Judge refuses leniency for rabbi who videotaped women undressing at synagogue

A rabbi who pleaded guilty in February for voyeurism was back in court Friday asking for leniency in his sentence.

Bernard Freundel, once an influential leader of Orthodox Jews, was wearing an orange jumpsuit with a yarmulke in court. He is serving six and a half years for videotaping women undressing at his Georgetown synagogue for religious ceremonies.

Rows of women victims sat in the courtroom as their former rabbi had his lawyer ask the judge for less prison time.

He was already sentenced to 45 days in jail -- consecutively -- for each of the 52 recordings of different women undressing in the bathroom at the mikvah where the ritual bath takes place.

Now, his lawyer said he should be charged with one count -- not 52.

Judge Geoffrey Alprin ruled against him and said each victim deserves a sentence on her behalf.

“I’m happy with that,” said Jeffrey Shaulevitz, the husband of one of the victims. “Otherwise he would have been out already if it was just this one.”

The judge pointed out that the rabbi could have gotten 52 years in jail for what he did and that his six and a half years was already lenient.

Judge Alprin said he made his decision based on the fact that 52 individual women had their privacy invaded by someone they trusted.

A total of 30 women so far of up to 150 people who have been taped by the rabbi over the years have joined into a class action lawsuit. Their lawyer said they want to raise awareness.

“This is a growing trend in America -- this whole voyeurism and sexual exploitation,” said Steven J. Kelly, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit. “As technology gets better, this gets to be more of a problem. One of the major goals of the civil case is to raise awareness and to cause people, corporations, organizations to really recognize red flags and take action.”

I spoke with the rabbi's lawyer and he said that they think the judge got the ruling wrong and they are going to appeal the decision.

Jeffrey Harris also said that his client wants to get out of D.C. jail and into the federal prison system so that he can have religious services and keep kosher. But for now, the federal prisons will not take him because all his charges are misdemeanors.

Freundel’s lawyer said this is like what is happening at Guantanamo bay and he will keep trying to get his client moved.

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