Friday, October 18, 2013

Kolko gets 15 years after judge rejects guilty plea withdrawal

Asbury Park Press   After watching his former camp counselor try to avoid responsibility for molesting him during a nine-hour hearing on Thursday, a 16-year-old boy faced his abuser in court as a judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson imposed the prison term shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Yosef Kolko, 38, a former counselor at an Orthodox Jewish camp in Lakewood.

Before the sentence was handed down, the victim, who was 11 and 12 years old when he was molested by Kolko in 2008 and 2009, confronted his former camp counselor.

“Molesting may seem harmless to you, but the reality is, it kills people,” the victim said. “How can you ignore the tears and open wounds when you know how much you hurt me? You ganged up on me and hurt me again.”

The victim and his family were ostracized in Lakewood’s Orthodox community for bringing the child’s allegations to secular authorities and breaking the religious tradition of having rabbis handle such problems. The family [...] made a 12-hour trip by bus for the sentencing hearing and an earlier hearing that stretched from the afternoon until 11 p.m. on Kolko’s bid to retract his guilty plea.

Kolko’s attorney, Alan Zegas, argued Kolko should be allowed to withdraw his plea to the molestation charges because he was coerced into making the admissions by members of the Orthodox community who didn’t want the bad publicity from a trial. [...]

However, Kolko’s previous attorney, Michael Bachner, one of seven witnesses at the hearing on whether to allow the guilty plea to be withdrawn, testified there was no coercion.
Senior Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro called Bachner to testify after six witnesses testified on behalf of Kolko, describing an effort by many people in the community to try and convince him to plead guilty.

“He was never being threatened,” Bachner said of Kolko. “I didn’t feel he was being coerced. He never indicated to me he was being pressured.”[...]


  1. How much less was he expected to get under the guilty plea if he had not tried to withdraw it?

    1. Initially the judge had said he would hold the sentencing to 5-15. Meaning had Kolko been a cooperative defendant which would have meant: A. Acting remorseful for his actions B. Compliance with recommendation that he undergo sex offender evaluation in Avenel C. Not engaging in stalling tactics... He probably would have gotten closer to five.
      The sad reality is that Kolko didn't need to end up in prison at all. He could have been an emotionally and sexually healthy Yid sitting next to you in Shul, and our children would also be safe, had the community not failed this situation on so many levels.
      1. Over ten years ago an intuitive Rebbi approached Hanhola of a certain Yeshiva that Kolko was affiliated with, and said that he felt the way Kolko interacted with the bochrim there was inappropriate and they should take action. They chose to ignore his concerns.
      2. The current victim's family was mostly interested in protecting other children (it wasn't about justice) and they had two requests A. That he gets treatment B. That he cooperates with recommended safety measures. Unfortunately the "council of wise sages" counseled him to maintain his innocence and fight the victim. Those wise sages and their cohorts even helped Kolko fight an innocent family and avoid the adaptive response to Kolko's problem.
      3. Even after their initial misguided advice, those around Kolko continued to ensure that he missteps all along his legal involvement.
      So today Kolko is going for a real "bid", with all of the shortcomings of our correctional system. Maybe justice is served (but that wasn't the goal.) Maybe he will finally get treatment (although the correctional system isn't ideal for treatment.) At least our children are safe. But it didn't need to happen this way.
      If only he had gotten himself help...
      If only the powers that be had listened to the cries and concerns and pushed for change...
      If only we had good safety measures in place...
      And maybe if only his Uncle Yidi had been treated differently...
      Let's get it right so that the pain for all of those involved doesn't happen again.


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