Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor charged with repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl in his care, testified in a Brooklyn courtroom on Wednesday that he had “never, ever” touched her inappropriately.
“What were you looking to do in terms of her?” asked Michael Farkas, a defense attorney, as Mr. Weberman testified in his own defense.
“To save her life,” Mr. Weberman said.
He spoke on the concluding day of witness testimony in a closely watched trial in State Supreme Court; it is one of the first times a prominent member of the insular Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg has faced child sexual abuse charges before a secular court. Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday.
The unusual decision by Mr. Weberman, 54, to take the stand in his own defense turned the trial into a credibility battle between Mr. Weberman and the accusing witness, an 18-year-old who claimed over four days of testimony last week that she had been forced to perform oral sex on him during counseling sessions, when she was between the ages of 12 and 15.
Dressed in the traditional long black coat and white shirt of the Satmar Hasidim, Mr. Weberman testified that he had first begun counseling his accuser in 2008, not in 2007, as she had claimed. He testified that he billed $150 an hour to see her, and also charged her family $1,500 for a trip upstate that he took alone with her. He denied that anything untoward had happened.
He based his testimony on work records, but under further questioning from prosecutors, Mr. Weberman admitted that he did not always record his meetings with clients. Mr. Weberman also admitted in court that he had used the finances of a nonprofit corporation he runs to help the poor, called the Congregation of Classon, to pay private school tuition bills for his children. Lingerie purchases were also billed to its accounts, prosecutors said.
“Maybe it did,” pay for lingerie, Mr. Weberman said of the foundation, “for certain individuals. I don’t know.”
Written By: Sharon Ottermancontinue to source article at nytimes.com