Friday, November 30, 2012

Judge gets snippy over courtroom snapshot outing accuser, 4 men detained in connection with illegal photo 

A teen who says a Hasidic counselor demanded oral sex from her has been outed on the Internet, where photos of her testifying against her alleged abuser have surfaced.

Four men were detained Thursday in connection with the illegal photo sharing and are expected to be charged with criminal contempt, law enforcement sources said.

The disturbing twist in the case involves a cell phone photo — clearly showing the 17-year-old — that was snapped Wednesday inside the Brooklyn courtroom, incensing Supreme Court Justice John Ingram.

"This is on the Internet now," the angry jurist told the four ultra-Orthodox men. "It's probably streamed all over the world."

The judge admonished the foursome — whom he identified as Lemon Juice, Abraham Zupnick, Joseph Fried and Yona Weisman — saying they violated a rule prohibiting photography in court.

"What you have done, apparently, is take the photos in the courtroom yesterday and today," Ingram said. "You know about the law, you know about the Torah, you know about rabbinical courts — this is a civil court."

The judge also hinted that they should expect repercussions.

"You might want to avail yourself of counsel," Ingram said. "Never come into my courtroom ever again and bring a phone with you."

Nine cell phones were confiscated as part of the probe, he added.

Fried works as a news reporter and runs a Twitter feed aimed at the insular Satmar sect, to which the accused abuser, Nechemya Weberman, belongs, a source said. Called Satmar Headquarters, the account has some 8,000 followers.

uice, a staunch Weberman detractor, according to relatives, works at a bakery. Weisman has a referral business, and Zupnick is supported by a wealthy father, said a person who knows all four men.

The bizarre event is the latest development in a long and sordid saga that already included bribery and intimidation allegations before and during the trial.

Weberman, 54, is accused of molesting the girl over a three-year period — beginning when she was 12 — while counseling her in his office apartment. The alleged victim was sent to Weberman because she objected to wearing thick tights and other clothing she considered overly modest.

Now married, the teen — whose identity had been withheld because she is an alleged sex assault victim — has spent 12 hours on the stand over three days. Her testimony is expected to continue Friday.

A spectator told court officers he noticed someone snap a cell phone photo from the back row Thursday afternoon, triggering the investigation.

An image of the teen, which was obtained by the Daily News, was taken Wednesday. That's the same day Weberman was also accused of staring the girl down as she rested in an interview room during one of the court breaks.

In response, to shield her from intimidation, the girl was escorted in and out of the courthouse Thursday by a plainclothes police officer, sources said.

After the sneak photos were discovered, all spectators had to voucher their cell phones before returning to the packed courtroom.

"This is not some sporting event where people can bring their phones to take photos," Ingram told spectators. "It's against the law."

Even before the pictures were snapped, the case against Weberman had caused friction in the Orthodox Jewish community, with supporters raising money on his behalf and detractors rallying against the fund-raising.

In June, a man was charged after he allegedly offered a $500,000 bribe for the teen to drop the charges. Three other people were accused of intimidation after the kosher certificate was torn from a restaurant owned by the teen's then-boyfriend.

The girl — who spent most of Thursday deflecting probing and intimate questions about her relationship with a former beau — appeared depleted as she stepped off the stand at day's end. For the first time, she dabbed tears from her eyes.


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