For the first time in years, Samuel Kellner, who fought to expose sex abuse in Borough Park’s Orthodox Jewish community, can breath a sigh of relief. New Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson dropped the justice-chilling charges brought forth by his predecessor, Charles Hynes, earlier this month.
“After a careful review of the evidence, we have concluded that the charges against Samuel Kellner must be dismissed. We’ve reached this conclusion because we do not believe that we can prove these charges at trial,” Thompson said in a statement.
The charges against Kellner included conspiracy, perjury, criminal solicitation and attempted grand larceny, all of which are being swept aside after the DA’s review.
Kellner’s case has been a long and strange one. He first came forward in 2006 with allegations that his 16-year-old son had been sexually abused by Barch Lebovits, a prominent cantor.
Kellner was openly shunned, and barred from yeshivas and businesses. He was left destitute, reportedly turning to selling his silverware.
But Kellner didn’t relent. After reportedly receiving pushback from Hynes regarding prosecution, he met with other alleged victims and began gathering evidence.
Lebovits was convicted of eight to 10 counts of molestation in 2010, and sentenced to between 10 and 32 years in prison.
Hynes then brought charges against Kellner, having obtained a secret tape from a supporter of Lebovits that suggested Kellner attempted to extort the rabbi. That evidence led to the release of Lebovits on appeal, and charges against Kellner.
It also formed the front-line battle between abuse whistle-blowers and the community’s establishment, which hoped to handle such cases internally.
The case began to unravel in 2013, when a judge claimed that the prosecution’s lead witness was no longer trustworthy. According to Thomspon’s statement, a second witness also provided inconsistent statements that called the testimony’s credibility into question. The secret recording itself was found to be ambiguous, and its source – Lebovits attorney, Arthur Aidala, who was a campaign contributor to Hynes – appeared to present a conflict.