NEW YORK, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A New York State Supreme Court jury convicted a 54-year-old unlicensed counselor in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect of 59 counts of sexual abuse.
Nechemya Weberman, of Brooklyn, had initially been charged with 88 counts of sexually abusing a minor after a young girl, now 18, said he fondled her and forced her to perform oral sex when she was sent to him for therapy between the ages of 12 and 15. The number of counts was consolidated to 59 on Monday by Justice John Ingram, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.
The girl, whose name was not reported, had been seeing Weberman up to four times a week because she didn't meet the Satmar Hasidic sect's strict modesty guidelines and questioned the existence of God.
Monday's ruling was Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes' first conviction against a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic sect for child sexual abuse, The New York Times reported.
In the past, abuse victims who came forward were shunned by the community, intimidated into silence and cases were dropped for lack of cooperation, the Times said.
Rabbi Yosef Blau, a victims' advocate, said the sect's practice of sending troubled young people to unlicensed therapists for help is flawed.
"It's a system which allowed this abuse to take place," he said. "It involves no scrutiny, no controls, and is a terrible way of dealing with children who have issues, whatever those issues might be."
Ingram scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 9. Weberman could face a maximum of 25 years for his most serious charge, but he could spend even longer in prison depending on how the sentence is structured, the Times reported.