Rabbi who taped women sentenced to 6.5 years in prison


Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A once-prominent Orthodox rabbi who secretly videotaped scores of women undressing and using a changing room at a Jewish ritual bath was sentenced Friday to approximately six-and-a-half years in prison.

Prosecutors had asked that a judge sentence Bernard Freundel to approximately 17 years in prison. His attorney argued community service was an appropriate sentence.

Freundel acknowledged as part of a plea agreement in February that he secretly recorded more than 150 women over several years. A statute of limitations would have barred prosecutors from charging Freundel for every recording, however, and he pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, each count punishable by up to a year in jail.

Freundel, 63, led the Kesher Israel synagogue in Washington for 25 years before he was arrested in October after one of his recording devices was discovered. As part of his plea agreement, he acknowledged that starting in 2009 he set up hidden recording devices in a changing and showering area of The National Capital Mikvah, a ritual cleansing bath he worked to have built. His recordings captured women undressing, using the toilet and entering and exiting a shower, prosecutors said.

Police arrested Freundel after a camera hidden in a digital clock radio was discovered at the mikvah. Freundel acknowledged that he also used recording devices hidden in a fan and tissue box holder and in some instances used up to three recording devices to capture women from different angles.

Some of the women Freundel videotaped were women whose conversion to Judaism he was supervising. He also invited female students from classes he taught at Towson University in Maryland and Georgetown University's law school to visit and use the mikvah for the sole purpose of recording them, prosecutors said.

Freundel was fired from the synagogue about a month and a half after his arrest.