In what’s being characterized as a rare victory in a case against a member of the very insular Satmar community, Nechemya Weberman was found guilty on 59 counts of sexual abuse and child endangerment by a Brooklyn jury this afternoon.
Prosecutors portrayed Weberman as an unlicensed counselor who served as a “power broker” who used his status in the community to gain access to young girls who were deemed problems for not following strict Satmar rules.
While his attorney says they plan to appeal the conviction, Weberman could face up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on January 9 of next year.
Little is known about the tight-knit Satmar community, which is frequently accused of keeping criminal matters from secular authorities. Back in June, four men were charged for reportedly trying to intimidate and bribe the accuser in the Weberman case into remaining silent.
Luzer Twersky, who grew up in a Satmar family in Brooklyn, spoke with Vox Tablet several years ago about his controversial decision to leave the community at age 23. Today, he responded to the news of Weberman’s conviction, sharing his own disturbing account of childhood sexual abuse by another respected figure in his community:
To a broken and unloved child of a family of 12, he seemed like a godsend. He told me what I’ve always believed — that I was special. “Your parents don’t understand you,” he’d tell me. “They think you’re a bad kid. The truth is you’re just too creative for them.” He gave me an exercise that I will never forget. He asked me to take a piece of paper and write about myself, my fears, my joy, things that made me happy and things that made me sad. I only managed to write down one sentence: “I’m a child who loves to be special and I love special things.” That was all I wrote.
He was the first person who was ever kind to me. He also sexually abused me.