Police searching the Towson University office of a prominent Georgetown rabbi accused of secretly recording women in a ritual bath found a backpack with an assortment of tiny cameras hidden in everyday household objects, including a computer charger, a clock and a tissue box, according to a warrant filed in a Maryland court.
Authorities said they also seized an empty box for a “micro camera” hidden in a key chain along with flash drives and memory cards — some in freezer bags — capable of holding more than 200,000 images and 25,000 hours of video. In addition, police found a picture of nude women and handwritten lists of names.
The items listed in the search warrant obtained by The Washington Post indicate that devices that could be used to spy were kept on the Baltimore County campus where Rabbi Barry Freundel taught as well as in his home and at the bath adjacent to Kesher Israel, the Northwest Washington synagogue he led. Police said that Freundel used a camera hidden in a clock radio to record at least six women in the bath, called a mikvah.
The latest discoveries raised further questions about the rabbi’s interactions with his students at Towson, a public university with more than 22,000 students. The rabbi, 62, has been a tenured associate professor there since 2009.
The document filed in Baltimore County District Court says that “several young female students” toured Kesher Israel with Freundel with “some even participating in the bathing ritual.” The affidavit for the warrant alleges that there is “evidence of the crime of voyeurism” in Freundel’s office, Room 3139 in the College of Liberal Arts building.
Gay Pinder, Towson’s director of media relations, said Friday that there was “no information at this point that anything seized in [Freundel’s] office involved our students.” She added, “We will have to await what is revealed by the continuing D.C. Metro Police investigation.”
Pinder said the school has been “concerned about this whole incident from the beginning. Of course, we would be concerned if indeed any of our students were victims of this voyeuristic incident.”
The spokeswoman said school officials have not been briefed on whether the list of names or the photo of the nude women are connected to Towson. Law enforcement officials declined to comment on evidence uncovered thus far.
The rabbi is scheduled for a status hearing Nov. 12 in D.C. Superior Court. He has been charged with six misdemeanor counts of voyeurism.
Freundel’s attorney, Jeffrey Harris, declined to comment on the allegations but had plenty to say about the disheveled state of Freundel’s office after the search by D.C. police detective George Desilva and Towson University Police Sgt. James Moynihan.
“No one is minimizing the allegations, but the police do not get to exact their own punishment in this process,” Harris said. “That’s not the way it works.”
When asked the status of his client, he responded: “He’s not doing great.”
Students and an assistant at the bath have previously told The Post and Towson University’s student-run newspaper that some classmates who toured the synagogue also disrobed and used the bath — a purported educational, rather than religious, exercise. This Maryland warrant is the first confirmation that students have told law enforcement that they used the bath. Currently, there is no indication that any students were recorded, but police say they have just begun to analyze the seized computer storage devices at a forensic lab.
A D.C. police affidavit filed last week said authorities believe that the rabbi had been “engaging in the criminal act of voyeurism in several locations and with the use of several devices and over a period of time.” Police said they found six images of synagogue congregants on a storage card for the camera hidden in a clock radio pointed at the shower area in the ritual bath. The videos were filed under the women’s first names, the court document said.
Police searched Freundel’s office at Towson on Tuesday, a week after the school had suspended him and barred him from campus. The day after the search, the school said it had opened an internal investigation to determine whether federal rules on reporting suspicious conduct regarding sexual abuse were followed and issued an urgent plea for former and current students to contact police if they ever thought Freundel acted inappropriately.
The charges against the rabbi have shocked not only his congregation in the District but also spiritual leaders across the country who saw Freundel as an important voice on religious laws and customs. He has written on the difficulties of being moral in the midst of modern technology and the accessibility of pornography on the Internet. He has also been a leading expert on conversions to Judaism, one of the instances when people use the ritual bath.
Police said a tip from a woman who helped at the bath led them to the camera hidden in the clock radio. Police said they found other cameras and additional memory cards and storage devices in the rabbi’s home. They also reported finding a manual for a fan equipped with a hidden camera in Freundel’s bedroom.
It was then that police and officials at Towson said they discovered that Freundel routinely invited students to drive to Washington and tour the synagogue and bath, which he was instrumental in building and is run by the National Capital Mikvah. Its board, as well as the one overseeing the synagogue, has suspended Freundel.
The link to Towson emerged slowly after Freundel’s arrest, and officials there have refined their responses several times over the past week. Responding to questions from the media, the school issued a statement saying that Freundel had been suspended and that “at this time there is no indication that these activities occurred on the Towson University campus community.”
But in a separate e-mail to Freundel’s students, school officials noted that he had invited students to the Georgetown synagogue. A university spokesman told The Post that the field trips were unauthorized and inappropriate. The spokesman also said the school was unaware whether any students had also used the ritual bath.
Later, the spokesman said that the trips to the synagogue appear to have been approved because Freundel’s department had encouraged “outside-the-classroom learning opportunities.” But the official said that any trip to the ritual bath in which students undressed would still have been deemed inappropriate.
The application for the search warrant filed in Baltimore County District Court says that although the computer storage cards had yet to be analyzed, “in cases such as these, defendants store their voyeur photos and other information as ‘trophies’ or ‘mementos’ in their professional and personal computers and other media devices.”
Michelle Boorstein and Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.