NEW YORK (AP) — A religious counselor in New York's ultra-orthodox Jewish community faces 25 years in prison when he's sentenced Tuesday for the sexual abuse of a girl who came to him with questions about her faith.
Nechemya Weberman was convicted in December of sustained sexual abuse of a child and other charges. The trial put a spotlight on the ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn. Weberman and the girl belonged to the Satmar Hasidic sect. He could get more jail time on some of the lesser charges.
Weberman was not a licensed counselor but spent decades working with couples and families in his community. The girl, now 18, testified for days about the abuse. She said it started when she was 12 and lasted until she was 15. She had been questioning her faith and her teachers felt she was straying from the right path, so they sent her to Weberman for guidance. Instead, she said, he molested her.
But there was no physical evidence. The defense argued that the girl was angry that Weberman had told her parents she had a boyfriend at age 15, forbidden in her community. They said the girl was a liar and the case was a simple he said, she said.
Weberman also testified, saying he "never, ever" abused the girl.
The jury was not convinced and took just hours to convict Weberman on all counts. The Associated Press typically doesn't identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault.
Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000, and the Satmar sect is one faction clustered mostly in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
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