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Trial for religious counselor begins

Nov. 27, 2012 at 5:12 PM

NEW YORK, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The alleged victim of a New York City counselor in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect described in court how he sexually molested her.

The trial of Nechemya Weberman, 54, charged with 88 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, is also a study of the ways of the Satmar Hasidic religious community, which will undergo scrutiny in the trial, The New York Times said Tuesday.

Authorities say the sect has historically avoided such prosecutions by keeping members quiet, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

In testimony Tuesday, the unnamed girl, now 17, said she began seeing Weberman, a respected but unlicensed religious counselor, in 2007, when she was 12, sometimes up to four times per week.

"I had a lot of questions about religion. How do you know God exists?," she said. Of the alleged abuse, she said, "I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know how to fight back. He would continue touching me all the time. I wanted to die rather than live with myself."

Assistant District Attorney Kevin O'Donnell said the alleged victim's parents sent her to Weberman after she was shunned by the Satmar Hasidic community for dressing immodestly, by the sect's standards, and for questioning authority, noting, "It doesn't sound like modern Brooklyn, it sounds like the Salem witch trials."

O'Donnell alleged in court Monday Weberman fondled the girl in his office and forced her to perform oral sex "over and over again."

The alleged sexual demands continued over a three-year period, The New York Times said.

The defense has argued the girl's accusations stem from an incident in which Weberman and her father secretly videotaped her engaged in sex with her boyfriend, then turning the tape over to authorities to have the boyfriend charged with statutory rape. The lawsuit and accusations were devised to retaliate against Weberman, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

The case had divided the close-knit and closed-mouth sect, with some rallying behind Weberman and raising funds for his defense, The Wall Street Journal said.

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