Prosecutors seek 17 years for Mikveh peeping Washington Rabbi

Police began investigating Freundel, who headed the synagogue for 25 years, when a woman found a camera in a clock radio in the bathing area and turned it over to officers.

By REUTERS
May 9, 2015 03:43
1 minute read.
Barry Freundel

Rabbi Barry Freundel. (photo credit: screenshot)

 
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Prosecutors are seeking a 17-year prison sentence for a prominent Washington rabbi who pleaded guilty in February to secretly videotaping dozens of women during ritual baths, court documents filed on Friday showed.

Prosecutors say Rabbi Barry Freundel, 63, recorded the women between early 2009 and October 2014 using devices installed in two changing rooms for the National Capital Mikvah, which is next to the Kesher synagogue in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood.

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The prosecutors said in court papers they were asking 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 available for the judge, but the 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."

Freundel, who also is facing civil lawsuits, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15.

The mikvah, 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 synagogue for 25 years, when a woman found a camera in a clock radio in the bathing area and turned it over to officers.



Investigators found six video files of nude women, with one showing Freundel's face as he set up the camera, prosecutors said.

Investigators also found that Freundel secretly recorded about 100 more women between 2009 and September 2014 in a bathroom at the National Capital Mikvah, according to police.

Prosecutors say at least 52 women were recorded nude or partially nude on 25 different dates from March 2012 to September 2014.

"I was violated ... my rabbi is a pervert," one unidentified victim said in comments included in the court documents. Another said: "We were at our most holy and our most naked, and he was watching it all."

Kesher Israel fired Freundel in December. His congregation has included Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and former Connecticut U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman.

Freundel's attorney could not be reached for comment.

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