Rabbi Orchestrates Torture for Divorce Papers

A conservative Orthodox Rabbi from Lakewood, NJ has just been sentenced to ten years in prison for his role in orchestrating years of assault and tortures designed to force husbands whose wives wanted divorces to sign religious paperwork that would allow them to later remarry. He was the leader in a large-scale operative including many others involved in the conspiracy.

The Assaults: Taking place between 2009 and 2013 when he was finally caught by a disguised FBI operative, the Rabbi was the leader of a group who would use cattle prods, karate, handcuffs, plastic bags, and a stun gun to make the husbands give their wives a legal Orthodox divorce.  Epstein himself was never present at the assaults and made sure that the wives who commissioned him also had a secure alibi. During the proceedings themselves, there would be four ‘tough guys’ present, as well as two non-active witnesses and an individual with the ‘get’, or divorce, papers to be finally signed. It was quite the involved conspiracy. Throughout the FBI investigation, Rabbi Epstein is heard in recorded phone conversations being quite clear and blunt about the torture methods and his understanding of what would actually occur to the husbands.

His Motivation: Throughout the trial and in conversations with those who knew him, it is clear that Rabbi Epstein believed he was doing a service to the women of his congregation who had no other recourse in obtaining the ‘get’, or document that would allow them to be officially divorced in the Orthodox church and community. Without this document, they would have been shunned from the community, even after years of separation, and their children from future marriages would have been deemed illegitimate. Epstein had previously written a book to guide these women through the process. However, the judge who sentenced Epstein noted that he demanded $60,000 per conspiracy and attack, very little of which went to the men who were physically carrying out the attacks.

Major Players: Also involved in the case were Rabbi Rinyamin Stimler of Brooklyn, who received 39 months in prison. There were seven other co-defendants, including Jay Goldstein, who was also found guilty. The son of Rabbi Epstein, David Epstein, was acquitted of kidnapping charges, but expressed his frustration at his fathers’ sentencing. Nine other people have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy.

The Sentencing:  The wayward rabbi’s undercover work came to an end in mid-December, when he received 10 years in prison under the jurisdiction of US District Judge Freda Wolfson. The sentencing took place in Trenton, and was widely covered by the media. Such a lengthy sentence is typical for this type of conviction and individuals facing charges of assault need particularly strong defenses to prevent this type of result in their own case.

If you or someone you know is being charged with assault or conspiracy to commit one, it is imperative to have an expert defense lawyer on your team. For more information about the services we offer at Zapicchi & Liller LLP, call our office today for a free phone consultation at 609-291-9500. We look forward to working with you soon.

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