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Monday, 11 February 2008

Brooklyn rabbi accused of sexual abuse loses extradition battle

An Israeli judge ruled Sunday that a disgraced Brooklyn rabbi accused of sexually abusing children more than two decades ago can be extradited to the U.S.

Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, who fled to the Jewish state in 1984 to avoid prosecution, could now be headed back to Brooklyn within a matter of months to face sodomy and sex abuse charges.

"It's good news," said Michael Lesher, who represents several of the rabbi's alleged victims. "This order means he'll be on the way back to face trial."

Mondrowitz, 60, a married father of seven, could still appeal the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court, a move that could take nearly a year to resolve.

"There's still some work to be done," said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. "We look forward to bringing him to justice in Brooklyn."

Mondrowitz was arrested last year after the U.S. and Israel agreed to broaden their extradition pact.

The rabbi argued that the statute of limitations had run out on his alleged crimes.

But Judge Nava Ben-Or ruled Mondrowitz should not benefit from fleeing prosecution.

"When someone is escaping justice it is only fair and reasonable that this period of time is not taken into account," said Gal Levertov, an Israeli Justice Department official.

Dressed in a long black coat and yarmulke, the shackled Mondrowitz sat impassively as the judge read his decision.

His wife and children sat behind him, but were prevented by two guards from touching or talking to him.

"I'm very proud of my kids. I'm always proud of my kids," Mondrowitz said to his family as he was led away.

"We're proud of you, too," one of his sons cried out.

Mondrowitz was once a popular child psychologist and youth counselor in Borough Park, where he was especially well-known among Hasidic Jews.

He fled to Israel after several boys filed horrific complaints claiming he sodomized them after befriending them or taking them on outings to amusement parks and movies.

One of Mondrowitz's victims told Lesher he was pleased that the rabbi is one step closer to facing trial for his alleged crimes.

"It's been a long time to see any sort of justice," Lesher said. "We feel we are tangibly closer now."

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