The attorney for Barry Freundel, the once-influential Orthodox rabbi who secretly videotaped dozens of nude women as they prepared for a ritual bath, has asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to spare his client any prison time and instead impose a sentence of community service.
The 12-page memo was filed after prosecutors Friday sent their own memo to the judge requesting that Freundel, 64, be sentenced to 17 years in prison.
In the defense memo, attorney Jeffrey Harris stressed that Freundel has lost his livelihood and asked Senior Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin to sentence Freundel to work with the community.
Alprin can either adopt or reject the sentences suggested by the prosecutors or the defense, or craft another punishment.
“He has already been punished in that he has lost his employment as a rabbi and is never likely to be so employed again,” Harris wrote. “He has been publicly humiliated and his prior reputation as a Judaic scholar, teacher and counselor have been destroyed.”
The memo was the first time that Freundel or his attorney has spoken publicly about the particulars of the case. Freundel is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, and many of his victims are expected to speak.
Freundel was arrested in October on charges that he videotaped six women in the nude while he was at Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown. Prosecutors said a review of his computer equipment revealed that many more women had been recorded by Freundel as they prepared for the bath known as a mikvah — used as part of a purification ritual by people converting to Judaism and by married women as a way to sanctify sex.
In February, Freundel pleaded guilty to videotaping 52 women, and the punishment proposed by prosecutors would translate to four months for each victim. The longtime rabbi had recorded about 100 additional women, prosecutors have said, but those alleged crimes occurred outside the three-year statute of limitations. The videotaping occurred between 2009 and 2014. Kesher Israel’s board fired Freundel in November.
Karin Bleeg, 32, who was videotaped by Freundel when she was his conversion student, was among congregants who were livid by news that his attorney was asking for no jail time.
“It’s really disgusting when it comes to recognizing what sexual assault is, and sexual misconduct. . .you don’t get rehabilitated in a few short months,” said Bleeg , who works in health policy and lives near the Navy Yard. “[No jail time] wouldn’t be penalizing him and would be very disrespectful to the people he’s violated.”
Harris wrote that Freundel “recognizes and regrets the negative impact his actions have had within the community. His conduct has brought shame upon Judaism, the synagogue he once served, his family, and himself.” Harris added that Freundel’s fall is “all of his own doing, has been very public and painful for the Jewish community, his family and of course, himself.”
Freundel was also meeting weekly with a doctor, Harris wrote, to “ensure” that he does not reoffend.
In the defense memo, Harris highlighted several instances where he said Freundel helped people. In one case, Freundel counseled a Georgetown University student who was considering suicide. Another time, he consoled a woman whose husband died in her home, staying there overnight until the medical examiner arrived to remove the body.
Harris said that numerous people have written letters of support on Freundel’s behalf, including six of the victims.
Harris wrote that Freundel had resumed teaching in a non-paid capacity and was now lecturing small classes on the Torah and other Judaic areas.