Rabbi pleads guilty to 52 "Peeping Tom" charges

  • Rabbi Freundel HOME
Red-faced Rabbi, 63, the former spiritual leader of a prominent Washington Orthodox shul, pleaded guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism last week after police found secret cameras hidden in the mikvah shower & recording devices in his home. The trial had to moved to a bigger court as the crowd grew. Rabbi Freundel was originally arrested on 6 charges last October. Freundel separated from his wife after his arrest and refused to leave his shul-owned home. The congregation has taken the case to the Beth Din of America.
by By ANT KATZ with JTA | Feb 22, 2015

Cameras hidden in mikvah

Rabbi Barry Freundel, the former spiritual leader at a prominent Washington shul, pleaded guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism. Hius plea last week means that Freundel could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 52 years in prison and ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Sentencing was postponed until May 15.

The afternoon hearing had to be moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate the number of victims who wanted to attend.

Rabbi Freundel with lawyer

RIGHT: Rabbi Barry Freundel, left, with his lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, outside the court after he pled guilty to 52 charges of spying on women at his shul’s mikvah (PIC: Dmitriy Shapiro/Washington Jewish Week)

During the hearing, Freundel appeared red-faced, kept his head bowed low and made no eye contact with the more than a dozen victims who packed the second-floor courtroom. He wore a black fur hat, a black rumpled and dirty suit, a black-and-gray tie and a black-and-gray kippah.

Freundel, 63, was arrested last October on six charges of voyeurism after investigators discovered secret cameras installed in the mikvah shower room and additional recording devices in his home. His Orthodox shul, Kesher Israel, immediately suspended him and later fired him, ordering the rabbi to vacate the shul’s rabbinic residence.

The government requested that Freundel wear an electronic ankle bracelet, but Judge Geoffrey Alprin asked Freundel: “Are you going to make me look stupid and flee the jurisdiction prior to sentencing?”

In a loud voice, Freundel responded, “Absolutely not, your honour.”

The judge took him at his word, addressing him as Rabbi Freundel, and released him on his own recognizance until his May sentencing.

Lawyers and court officials considered when Shabbat begins on May 15. The court was satisfied that the 1pm hearing would be concluded prior to sundown.

Rabbi Freundel on News

LEFT: The story was big news on major US media channels such as this screenpull from ABC news

The plea deal was announced in a letter from the US Attorney’s Office  to Freundel’s victims,
150+ victims

An oral agreement was reached on a plea offer, according to the US Attorney’s Office's letter. The plea offer included one count for every victim recorded during the statute of limitations (the length of time after which one cannot bring a charge).

“We also did not restrict our ability to seek incarceration or restitution for those victims identified during the statute of limitations in any way,” the letter said.

Prosecutors have told alleged victims that Freundel secretly recorded more than 150 women undressing at the mikvah.

Women who were videotaped as they used The National Capital Mikvah in the Georgetown section may submit a victim impact statement “expressing how this crime has impacted you,” the letter said.

They also can give an oral impact hearing during sentencing.

“I didn’t expect it to be over. I am glad it is,” said Jeffrey Shulevitz, the husband of Emma Shulevitz, one of Freundel’s victims. “The rabbi was a brilliant man, and he used it to harm people instead of making the world a better place.”

Civil suits have been filed against Freundel, the shul, the mikvah and the Rabbinical Council of America.

“Rabbi Freundel’s plea today in Superior Court is the first step in achieving justice for his victims,” said David Haynes, the managing attorney at one of the Washington firms handling civil litigation.

The plea “will also be an important element in establishing liability in the related civil cases, which will focus on why the synagogue and the other defendants did not prevent or stop Freundel from using their facilities for his illicit purposes for such an extended period of time despite his strange conduct and the many prior complaints about him,” Haynes said in a statement.

Refused to leave shul-owned home

Freundel, who reportedly separated from his wife after his arrest, had refused to leave his shul-owned residence, and the congregation has taken the case to the Beth Din of America.

A local news radio station reported that he is now planning to vacate the house within two weeks.

The shul and the mikvah issued statements following the plea hearing.

“Despite this great betrayal by Rabbi Freundel and our communal pain, we have seen a community that has come together and whose members have leaned on one another for support,” Kesher Israel said.

“As we move forward, we will continue to grow stronger and are committed to ensuring that our community remains a warm, welcoming, and safe place to gather, worship, and learn.”

The National Capital Mikvah noted in its statement that its staff was the first to alert police to Freundel’s crimes. “We are grateful that we were able to detect and stop such despicable illegal activity,” it said. “We are saddened to see a Torah scholar cause his own downfall.”

What is ‘Voyeurism’?

According to WIKIPEDIA, Voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature. The principal characteristic of voyeurism is that the voyeur does not normally interact directly with the subject of his/her interest, who is often unaware of being observed.

The essence of voyeurism is the observing but may also involve the making of a secret photograph or video of the subject during an intimate activity. The term comes from the French voyeur which means "one who looks."

1 Comment

  1. 1 Denis Solomons 23 Feb
    Bad news!
    I suppose one mun't make godllets of rabbis.
    but the reality is that no-one is above the law .
    Rabbi Freundel should find another occupation !
    Voyeurism is bad news !


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