The appellate division of state Supreme Court has ruled Rabbi Baruch Lebovits should be freed from prison on bail, pending the outcome of his appeal of a 2010 sex abuse conviction. The decision to bring Lebovits back to Brooklyn, putting him under house arrest, came after District Attorney Charles Hynes announced that a Brooklyn man paid off a witness in one case to lie about Lebovits.
Samuel Kellner is accused of paying a Brooklyn youth more than $10,000 to testify to a grand jury that Rabbi Lebovits molested him.
Prosecutors said Kellner hatched an extortion plot, after he heard another youth had made abuse claims against Lebovits. D.A. Hynes said Kellner tried to extort more than $400,000 from Lebovits' family, which owns a travel agency.
Kellner solicited a third, young man to testify against Lebovits, but this victim said he never received any money from Kellner. Rabbi Lebovits was convicted by this man's testimony last year and sentenced to up to 32 years in prison.
The District Attorney said Wednesday he had no reason to believe the third victim told any lies, and he stands by last year's conviction. But Defense Attorney Arthur Aidala, went right to the appellate division of NYS Supreme Court, demanding that Lebovits be freed.
The judges agreed to set bail at $250,000 and said Lebovits will be sent home to spend time under house arrest, while the appeal on his conviction is heard.
The Lebovits trial was a "high-profile" case in the ultra-conservative, Orthodox Jewish community, which has been rocked by investigations of sexual abuse in families and schools in recent years.