Law enforcement officials said there may be at least 150 women who allegedly were secretly videotaped by a prominent D.C. rabbi as the women prepared for a ritual bath, according to three people briefed on the investigation.
The Orthodox rabbi, Barry Freundel, was arrested in October on charges that he videotaped six women in the nude while he was at Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown. He has pleaded not guilty. He has not been charged with any additional counts.
At a meeting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, two people present said some of the women and their attorneys were told by law enforcement that there may be more victims. Authorities said they were looking for help in identifying 88 women whose images appeared on the video.
Another 64 women were allegedly videotaped between 2009 and 2011 and could not be part of a case since they are outside of the statute of limitations, those people said.
Freundel, 63, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor voyeurism in spying on six women with a camera hidden in a clock in the private bath, known as a mikvah. A mikvah is used most frequently by people converting to Judaism and by observant Jewish women seven days after the end of their menstrual cycle as a way of becoming closer to God.
Freundel faces up to six years in prison if convicted.
Calls and e-mails to Freundel’s attorney, Jeffrey Harris, were not returned Wednesday evening. The Associated Press first reported on the meeting and additional women who may have been taped.
A person who was at the meeting said prosecutors told the group that a plea deal with Freundel was discussed with the victims but that an agreement had not been reached. Prosecutors often discuss such deals with victims before presenting them to defendants.
The U.S. attorney’s office has set up a Web site for individuals who believe they may have been victims. Prosecutors are asking women to send photographs of themselves, clothed, to: email@example.com. Prosecutors said that they hope to respond to each e-mail but that the process will take some time.
For 25 years, Freundel served as the rabbi at Kesher Israel, where prosecutors say the videotaping occurred. The synagogue’s board fired Freundel in November and told him to leave the synagogue-owned home by Jan. 1, which he hasn’t, leading to another dispute.
Freundel is expected to appear in court Feb. 19 for a hearing in the videotaping case.
One woman who attended the meeting said she could potentially have been videotaped, but she did not send police images of herself.
“I thought about it in the beginning, and I decided it doesn’t matter to me” if she specifically was recorded, she said.
Those attending the meeting included potential victims and attorneys, according to one woman who was present.
Most of the women who attended the meeting, the woman said, did not voice opposition to a plea agreement that would avoid a trial. “I think people just want this over with,” she said.