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Israel sets Mondrowitz free

Assessing blame, further options in notorious case

By Michael Orbach

Issue of January 22, 2010/ 7 Shvat 5770
Avrohom Mondrowitz will not be extradited to New York to be tried on multiple counts of child sexual abuse, Israel's Supreme Court has decided. His attorney says the Brooklyn District Attorney's office is to blame but even one of the DA's harshest critics calls that "preposterous."

Mondrowitz, a charismatic, self-styled rabbi who faked his psychology credentials, was indicted for sexually abusing several Brooklyn boys a month after he fled to Israel in 1984. He is widely suspected of molesting dozens of boys, many of whom, twenty years later, are still unwilling to come forward.

The case is more involved that that of a single individual accused of committing serious crimes. The social service agency Ohel has vigorously denied having referred clients to Mondrowitz for counseling; and leaders of the frum community, specifically the Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park, were thought to have warned him of his impending arrest.

Elizabeth Holtzman, Brooklyn's district attorney at the time, sought Mondrowitz's extradition. However, the charges against him were not extraditable under the reaty between Israel and the United States in force at the time. That changed in 1988, but the next district attorney, Charles Hynes, chose to not pursue the case until 2007 when the treaty changed again. Hynes has been accused of sitting on the case under pressure from the same Borough Park communal leaders. After a renewed interest in the case, extradition proceedings began in earnest in 2007. Mondrowitz appealed and in a decision issued by the Israeli Supreme Court on Jan. 14, his appeal was sustained.

"The delay in the appellant's extradition process — currently measured at 23 years — which could have been prevented by an earlier amendment of the extradition agreement, places a legal and ethical obstacle before the completion of the extradition," wrote Justice Ayala Procaccia.

Eitan Moaz, Mondrowitz's lawyer, attributed the defense's success to inaction by the district attorney.

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