Rabbi Barry Freundel was sentenced to 6-1/2 years for secretly videotaping dozens of women naked in the mikveh of his high-profile Washington D.C. synagogue.
The disgraced cleric was sentenced to 45 days for each of 52 counts of voyeurism. The courtroom cheered the decision and Freundel was taken into custody immediately
D.C. Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin called Freundel’s sex spree at the Kesher Israel ritual bath a “classic case of abuse of power and violation of trust.”
Dozens of women wore orange to the hearing to back a prison sentence for the rabbi, whom they say violated their trust and trampled on common decency.
Freundel pleaded for his freedom, claiming that he was a changed man and hoped to make amends.
“I am horrified and disgusted by how I acted,” he told the court.
Prosecutors were seeking a 17-year prison term for Rabbi Barry Freundel, 63, who pleaded guilty in February to recording the women between early 2009 and October 2014, using devices installed in two changing rooms for the National Capital Mikvah, next to the Kesher synagogue in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood.
Freundel attorney Jeffrey Harris, in a memo filed on Friday in response to the prosecutor’s request, said Freundel should receive community service. He claimed Freundel has been punished enough by being publicly humiliated and losing his job.
In the memo, the first time that Freundel or his attorney publicly addressed the case, Harris said Freundel sought medical attention after he was arrested in order to understand why he committed the crimes and to prevent him from doing it again.
Harris also said Freundel regretted his actions and the affect they have had on the Jewish community.
The prosecutors in court papers asked the judge to sentence Freundel to four months for each of the 52 misdemeanor counts of voyeurism to which he pleaded guilty.
That represents a third of the maximum penalty but prosecutors called the 17-year recommendation “a reasonable and just punishment for this severe conduct that falls on the extreme end of the voyeurism spectrum.”
The mikveh, or ritual bath, is used most frequently as purification by people converting to Judaism and by Jewish women seven days after the end of their menstrual cycle.
Police began investigating Freundel, who headed the Kesher synagogue for 25 years, when a woman found a camera in a clock radio in the bathing area and turned it over to officers.
“I was violated my rabbi is a pervert,” one unidentified victim said, according to court documents.
Another said: “We were at our most holy and our most naked, and he was watching it all.”
In December, Kesher Israel fired Freundel, whose congregants have included Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and former Connecticut U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman.—With Reuters