Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has been facing a storm of criticism over his unique practice of not disclosing the names of ultra-Orthodox individuals accused of sex crimes in the same way he would for people of every other religious persuasion. On a lengthy, two-part segment on Inside City Hall last night, however, he did everything he could to push back on the notion that he gives the Orthodox community preferential treatment for political gain.
“We are conscious of the criticism that you’re protecting the abusers by not proclaiming their names,” he said, noting the victim and his or her relatives can get pressured by exclusion from every day religious life in these insular communities. “The level of intimidation is not found nearly as much in organized crime, it’s extraordinary how relentless these people can be.”
Mr. Hynes also directly addressed the criticism he received from former Mayor Ed Koch, who has argued there should be only one standard of justice regardless of religion.
“There is no concern for the victim in parts of these communities, everything is for the abuser, and that’s the horrible thing that we have to deal with,” he said. “The only way that we can deal with it was to, quite frankly, to annoy a lot of decent people like Ed Koch by seemingly giving preferential treatment by not naming defendants. We had no choice. And the only way we could encourage victims to come forward is to have this protective shield, that we will make every effort to make damn sure that you’re not going to be intimidated and harassed.”
He argued that before he implemented his non-disclosure program for the ultra-Orthodox community, his cases all fell apart, and there has been a marked improvement in his prosecution rate since. However, as intimidating witnesses is illegal, Mr. Hynes suggested that someday he’ll be able to prosecute rabbis and others who pressure victims into not going forward as well.
“One of these days I’m going to get lucky,” he said. “As I told Mayor Koch, it took me a long time to put away three Supreme Court judges, but I never gave up. And that’s what you have to do, you have to be as relentless as they are.”