Mikvah-peeping rabbi seeking community service sentence

Mikvah-peeping rabbi seeking community service sentence

Prosecutors recommend 17-year sentence for Barry Freundel, while his attorneys argue against incarceration

Rabbi Barry Freundel leaves the DC Superior Court House in Washington, February 19, 2015. (AP file Photo/Cliff Owen)
Rabbi Barry Freundel leaves the DC Superior Court House in Washington, February 19, 2015. (AP file Photo/Cliff Owen)

A lawyer for a once-prominent Orthodox rabbi who pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping scores of women in a changing room of a Jewish ritual bath said he shouldn’t go to prison.

Barry Freundel’s lawyer wrote in a court document filed Friday ahead of his May 15 sentencing that putting him behind bars isn’t necessary and that he should instead do community service. Prosecutors have recommended that Freundel spend more than 17 years in prison. The sentencing will be held on Friday.

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.

In the statement by Freundel’s attorney, reproduced in full by The Washington Post, the mikvah-peeping rabbi is termed “the perfect candidate for a sentence of community service.”

“His entire career has been helping people as the letters summarized above testify to. If there is a way to make some good come out of this case, it would be to have Rabbi Freundel give back to the community in a way that helps those less fortunate members of society.”

“There is no need for the Court to incarcerate Rabbi Freundel in order to punish him,” it continued. “He has already been punished in that he has lost his employment as a rabbi and is never likely to be so employed again. He has been publicly humiliated and his prior reputation as a Judaic scholar, teacher and counselor have been destroyed… He has lost the only home he and his family have known for over 20 years.”

Attorney Jeffrey Harris also notes that Freundel has received letters of support by community members, including six of his victims.

“Further the fact, as set out below, that Rabbi Freundel has been requested by several groups to resume teaching them (which he is doing) also speaks to the fact that there is no need to protect the safety of the community by incarcerating Rabbi Freundel,” he argues. The statement later elaborates saying he teaches Judaic Studies by telephone on Sundays and Tuesdays, as well as offering a Shabbat lecture to 3-4 people.

The rabbi, now 64, was arrested last October and charged with six counts of voyeurism after investigators found hidden cameras in the National Capital Mikvah’s shower room and in his home. He was fired from Kesher Israel, the congregation he had led for 25 years and which abuts the mikvah, soon after his arrest.

JTA contributed to this report.

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