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Rabbi found in contempt released from jail

Dec. 12, 2012 at 2:50 PM

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- An Orthodox Jewish rabbi found in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury has been released by a judge in Los Angeles, his lawyer says.

U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow, who ordered Rabbi Moshe Zigelman jailed, ruled Monday that further imprisonment would not have any effect, the Los Angeles Times reported. He had been in a federal jail in New York since May and could have been held for up to 18 months.

Zigelman, 65, had already served a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit money laundering in 2009. He had been an executive assistant to Grand Rabbi Naftali Tzi Weisz, who also pleaded guilty.

The rabbis are members of the Spinka sect within the Hasidim. Federal prosecutors said the group had been secretly kicking back contributions from wealthy donors, who got the money and their tax deductions.

When he was ordered to testify before a grand jury in Los Angeles, Zigelman said he was covered by the doctrine of mesira, that "it is a sin to inform on a fellow Jew." His lawyers said he was protected by the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

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