Rabbi Barry Freundel leave courthouse, February 19, 2015.
(photo credit: screenshot)
WASHINGTON - A prominent Washington rabbi charged with secretly videotaping women during ritual baths pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism on Thursday.
Rabbi Barry Freundel, 63, was accused of installing video cameras to spy on women in the bathing area of his Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel Congregation, in Washington's upscale Georgetown neighborhood.
"Guilty," Freundel, a bearded figure wearing glasses and a yarmulke, said when asked how he pleaded by District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Alprin.
Prosecutors said the Brooklyn-born Freundel, who headed the synagogue for 25 years, hid cameras in an area where women disrobed for the ritual Jewish bath, known as a mikvah.
Each of the 52 counts of voyeurism, a misdemeanor, carries a penalty of a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 or $2,500, depending on when the offense occurred.
Freundel is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15.
Prosecutors said that up to about 150 women may have been videotaped while they prepared for the private bath.
The mikvah is used most frequently as purification by people converting to Judaism and by Jewish women seven days after the end of their menstrual cycle.
Kesher Israel fired Freundel in December. His congregation has included Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.
The US Attorney's Office created a web page on the Justice Department's website asking alleged victims to come forward with any information.
Freundel is barred from leaving the country. He has been ordered to stay away from people he had helped convert to Judaism and participated with in the bathing ritual process, according to court documents.
He was also ordered to stay away from the Kesher Israel synagogue and the National Capital Mikvah.