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New York therapist gets 103 years for abuse

Was backed by ultra-Orthodox community

NEW YORK — An unlicensed therapist who was a respected member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was sentenced Tuesday to 103 years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing a young woman, beginning the attacks when she was 12.

The therapist, Nechemya Weberman, 54, a member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg, did not react as the judge sentenced him. The victim, now 18, who delivered an impassioned statement asking for the maximum sentence to be imposed, dabbed away tears.

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‘‘The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done,’’ Justice John G. Ingram of the state Supreme Court said before imposing the sentence, which was close to the longest the law allows. Ingram praised the young victim’s ‘‘courage and bravery in coming forward.’’

As Weberman was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, he turned to his wife and gave her a nod and a small smile.

On Dec. 9, Weberman was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual abuse, charges that carried a maximum combined sentence of 117 years. He was found guilty of engaging in various sexual acts, including oral sex, groping, and acting out pornographic videos, during therapy sessions that were meant to help the girl become more religious. The abuse lasted three years.

In her statement, the victim said that for years during and after the abuse, she would look in the mirror and see ‘‘a girl who didn’t want to live in her own skin.’’

‘‘I would cry until the tears ran dry,’’ she said. But now, she said, she can see someone ‘‘who finally stood up and spoke out,’’ on behalf of both herself and ‘‘the other silent victims.’’

‘‘You played around with and destroyed lives as if they were your toys,’’ she told Weberman, ‘‘without the slightest bit of mercy.’’

Weberman, who wore his traditional black suit and head covering, did not speak before the sentencing, but his lawyer, George Farkas, said he was ‘‘innocent of the crimes charged.’’ An appeal is planned.

The case was closely watched as the first high-profile child sexual abuse case brought by the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, against a member of the politically powerful Satmar ultra-Orthodox community in his more than two decades in office. The sentence is the longest a Brooklyn court has imposed on a member of the ultra-Orthodox community for child sexual abuse.

Critics have charged Hynes with not being aggressive enough in going after molesters in the politically well-connected community. But Hynes has attributed the lack of prosecutions on the intimidation that ultra-Orthodox sex-abuse victims and their families often face from their own community leaders. Support for Weberman was strong in the Satmar community after his arrest in 2011, with hundreds turning out for a fund-raiser for his defense. The courtroom Tuesday was about equally divided between supporters for him and for his victim.

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