Sunday, February 22, 2015

Epstein defense of torture/kidnapping: The husbands wanted to be forced!

Guest post: According to documents filed late last week, Epstein is apparently now claiming that he is innocent because he believed that the men consented to being kidnapped and beaten, and Stimmler is apparently now claiming -- based on an affidavit from Rabbi Breitowitz -- he can't be prosecuted because he was just following Jewish Law.

From a letter that Epstein's lawyer wrote to the judge:
Mendel Epstein believes that the victims of these alleged kidnappings consented, by virtue of their signing of the marriage ketubbah promising to be bound by the laws of Moses and Israel, both to the authority of the beth din and to the halakhic process of the “forced” get as the term is described by Maimonides. The argument is not that he was motivated by his desire to help agunahs escape their impossible position, and that this excuses his criminal conduct because this was a religious belief (although certainly he is entitled to present such evidence to rebut the Government’s assertion that he was motivated by the desire to obtain money), but that he lacked the intent to commit the crimes of kidnapping and conspiracy.

“[T]he Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense.” Crane v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 683, 690 (1986) (internal quotation mark’s omitted). These defendants are thus entitled to present religious beliefs that are relevant to the issue of specific intent to commit the crimes of conspiracy and kidnapping and whether they believed that the victims consented to the compelled get, as factual determinations for a properly instructed jury. United States v. Hsia, 24 F. Supp. 2d at 43; United States v. Bertram, 477 F.2d 1329 1330 (10th Cir. 1973) (defendant’s testimony as to his religious beliefs, although not a defense to his criminal conduct, is admissible as “evidence of state of mind establishing that there was no criminal intent”). [...]
 The Government has already made the religious beliefs of the defendant’s part of this case, even if there were not a basis for their admission as to the issue of intent. Here, the Government relied on religious law to set up their sting operation to ensure that Rabbi Epstein would involve himself and others in convening the beth din for issuance of the required psak. They are presenting videos and recordings demonstrating the religious process itself. Yesterday morning their expert, ostensibly used to explain the dictionary definition of Talmudic terms, explained the get process, the religious beliefs underlyingthe obtaining of a get, and what was and was not permissible under Talmudic or rabbinical law, offering his opinion that the use of physical force is not permissible. Indeed, their expert testified about Dina D’malchusa Dina, a religious concept which is not found on any of the tapes or mentioned in any other evidence. The only possible reason the Government wanted it mentioned was so that the jury would draw the inference that defendants were not authorized to use force by Jewish law, and were in fact acting contrary to it.

From a letter from the U.S. Atttorney:
After agreeing with the Court that he “is not claiming a religious right to kidnap,” 1/28/15 Transcript (“Tr.”) at 57-58,1 defendant Stimler has abruptly changed course and now claims in his “renewed motion” to dismiss that he is raising precisely such a claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). According to the supplementary declaration provided by Rabbi Breitowitz, Jewish law does permit the use of force to compel a recalcitrant husband to grant his wife a religious divorce under certain circumstances. Rabbi Breitowitz acknowledges that his initial declaration did not make that assertion, blaming the omission on defense counsel, who did not ask for such an assertion. Stimler does not argue in his renewed motion that the Court was incorrect in denying his original motion based on the information supplied to the Court. Rather, he contends that the additional information supplied by Rabbi Breitowitz should cause this Court to reverse itself. [...]
Given Stimler’s sandbagging tactics, the Government is in no position to dispute Rabbi Breitowitz’s assertions that at least some reputable Jewish legal authorities permit the use of physical violence to coerce a recalcitrant husband to grant a divorce, so long as the use of force is specifically authorized by a religious tribunal (beth din). See Supp.Decl. at ¶ ¶ 7, 8, and 9.2 The Indictment alleges that, before using physical violence to extract an agreement to divorce from a recalcitrant husband, defendants convened a beth din “which issued a contempt order, known as a ‘seruv,’ against the husband,” and that “[i]f the husband failed to respond, the beth din issued a ruling, known as a ‘psak din,’ authorizing the use of coercion and force to obtain the get.” Indictment, Count 1, ¶ 6.
Notably, however, Rabbi Breitowitz does not assert that Jewish law condones the use of violence to compel a recalcitrant husband to grant a Jewish divorce is permitted if, as the Indictment alleges here,3 the violence was perpetrated or defendants offered to perpetrate the violence in exchange for money. Stimler suggests that such might not be the case. Stimler Reply Brief, D.E. 188, 6 (“The Government may have a ‘compelling interest’ in prosecuting any individual who conspires to kidnap and possibly engage in violence for motives other than religious ones (such as obtaining ‘money or other things of value from agunot’)).” Certainly, an act performed altruistically to help a “chained woman” escape an oppressive marriage is very different from acting as a “hired gun,” and nothing in Rabbi Breitowitz’s supplementary declaration supports the notion that the latter is a mitvah, much less a religious obligation of Orthodox Jews.


  1. The judge warned Epstein's attorney at the beginning of the trial that he was making foolhardy defense since he was effectively admitting guilt and asking the jury to overturn Federal law and rule in accordance with religious law in its stead.

    Epstein's defense claims he was a "champion of women's rights" and employed "torture as term of art" in order to get a husband's "evil" recalcitrance to "leave his body." According to the strictest interpretation of ancient Jewish law, a religious divorce, referred to as a "get", can only be granted by a husband regardless of the circumstances that may have caused a marriage to break up. Without a "get", a religious Jewish woman cannot remarry or get on with her life and she becomes an ostracized member of the community called an “agunah” or a chained person. Convincing reluctant husbands to grant their wives divorces is a specialty among ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

    The defense is expected to tell the jury about the oldest interpretation of Jewish law that broadly outlines torture as a legitimate vehicle for convincing recalcitrant husbands to grant their wives religious divorces. Defense lawyer Robert Stahl said during his opening statements that "the process is a legitimate divorce. It's not a criminal conspiracy." He told the jury that ancient Jewish texts endorse the use of coercion and physical torture in an effort to convince men to grant their wives divorces.

    U.S District Judge Freda Wolfson reminded Epstein's lawyers on day one of the trial that this type of defense is dangerous because the lawyers are essentially asking the jury to overrule federal criminal law.

  2. Epstein's defense on the basis of Jewish law is worse than specious. Epstein and Wolmark conducted a Kangaroo Bais Din without the presence of the husband where they, as dayanim (the third so-called dayan being Jay Goldberg), ordered the husband that he is halachicly required to give his wife a Get. And that if he doesn't then Bais Din will use kofin/force to coerce him into giving a Get.


    1) A Bais Din cannot conduct a trial in absentia, with one of the litigants being absent.

    2) There are very very limited grounds in halacha where a Bais Din can authorize kofin/force against a husband to compel a Get.

    3) Those grounds must be proven in Bais Din to exist.

    4) Those grounds were not proven. Nor was the husband afforded the opportunity to refute any of the allegations that purportedly require him halachicly to grant a Get.

    Epstein and Wolmark were openly and clearly violating Jewish law every step of their way.

  3. Asher pihem diber shavFebruary 22, 2015 at 11:55 PM

    I am not sure if they offered R' Mendel a plea, or what the plea was. I actually think that under the circumstances, for a man who is already 70, this may be a very decent strategy. Here is why.

    The defense attorney will bring every Agunah that Mendel helped over the years, and didn't help to explain the extreme pain of an Agunah. If he gets the sympathy of one or two jurors, and he may well get it, they may not be willing to have him sit 20 years for this kidnapping. It may lead to a hung jury. If it does, it is quite likely, the government will drop the case.

  4. The argument of the defense appears to imply that a guilty verdict is definite. It attempts to soften the image of the defendant and perhaps also tries to divert attention from the fact that this case was clearly for money.

  5. The lomdishe shtikle that the Kidushin implies that the will of the mekadesh is to be coerced so it is no longer considered coercion (no ,matter what method of torture that was used), implies that there is no need for a heter to coerce. This may open a far bigger market to Epstein and friends.

    It may explain why Espstein did not require a real beis-din.

  6. Since we have freedom of religion, you cannot force on anybody YOUR
    religion, and nobody is above the law.. The husband may be a follower of all the
    major poskim that declare such coerced gittin as not valid. Indeed, at Kidushin
    kedas Moshe veYisrael calls for, that the majority rules. In USA, religious
    courts have no jurisdiction using brute force, and according to Shulchan Aruch
    in Galut we have no power to utilize force, especially when Dina Demalchuse Dina
    does not allow. Even according to Torah, kidnapping is assur, and extracting
    anything under such duress is invalid, NOWHERE is it mentioned that you CAN
    kidnap, even according to the RAMBAM. The Rambam also does not allow to make a
    psak din in absentia. In addition, extracting a get entails monetary loss so
    there goes splitting hairs of Kidnapping intent strictly for religious bizwax.
    Even if the monetary rewards for the Kidnapping come from sources outside of the
    victim or victims well wishers, it is still KIDNAPPING for monetary gain!!! Such
    a Price tag for performing a Get has no precedence, unheard of, USURY, against
    Shulchan Aruch. It is an Aveirah habo beAveirah. It is clearly a Goon Squad and
    gun for hire, which has nothing to do with religion. Threatening to kill someone
    by drowning, or electrocuting with 5,000 Volts in order to extract a Get, in any
    which case is an ONNES, and doesn't count for extracting the Devil of a human
    being to do the right thing. It would be so much more religious to extract the
    DEVIL from the DEVIL himself, and have himself choose the ways and means since
    only the DEVIL himself can come up with such DEVILISH acts. If he has control
    over his faculties, he cannot even claim the DEVIL made me do it. My dear so
    called rabbi Prodfather, the "STING" is mightier than the Bee, and days of
    reckoning are here. A sting in the eye blinds, so does $Shochad of 50 - 100 G
    in your pockets. You do have now your day in court, we hope and pray you should
    be locked up for life together with your goons, false Aguno's et al, they should
    throw away the key, and rot away in Jail. No one will even miss you, or shed
    even a tear. May Hashem remove the curse of FALSE batei dinim a/k/a/ kangaroo
    courts, self declared dayonim, baryonim, sadists, vekol minei chalaas,

  7. A couple of, oh-so-slight problems for Mr. Epstein:

    "Mendel Epstein believes that the victims of these alleged kidnappings consented, by virtue of their signing of the marriage ketubbah promising to be bound by the laws of Moses and Israel, both to the authority of the beth din and to the halakhic process of the “forced” get"


    * Lets see now. A kangaroo "beth din" in absentia of the husband - which is clearly against all halachos - is something which the men agreed to? Hmmm. Any bridges that Mr. Epstein would like to sell the jury?

    * According to most poskim, these coerced gitten are actually invalid! So, ho is it that they agreed to be beaten and electrocuted for no halachik reason?!

    Now lets see a list of current poskim who ruled that his thuggery was absolutely halachikly impermissible.

    Rav Moshe Sternbuch,

    Rav Meir Brandsdorfer,

    Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Ulman,

    Rav Yosef Rosenblum,

    Rav Shmuel Zev Lichter (Krasna Rov),

    Rav Menashe Klein,

    Rav Pinchas Hircshprung (Montreal),

    Rav Elyashiv Zt"l

    Amongst many, many others.

  8. As a general rule the Feds do not drop a case after a hung jury. They typically will retry the case unless they reach a plea agreement.

  9. Esptein has no good defense. His guilt is open and shut. The Feds have all the goods on him. He can't claim innocence because it'll be laughed out of court. He wasn't offered a plea bargain as he's the ringleader and the Feds are looking to throw the book at him. So what choice did he really even have?

  10. ROFL! Much more likely will it lead to a hung and strung mendele chazir in
    town square. These Agunos are now hiding in all crevices together with their
    mamzerimlich and are afraid they will go along in chad gadya for hiring guns.
    You much sooner get sympathy for the young husbands that their lives have been
    destroyed ever so brutally and had many more years yet to live together with
    their young if not for this reb Devil epweich oveil vachafui rosh. Nebach, if the
    attorney needs to resort to such pilpulim shel dofi the noose is closing in. I
    am confident that mendele's Kangaro court or beit din chotsif and zoken mamre,
    mendele would have swallowed hook line and stinker. The reason all the other
    goons were offered a plea deal, so as to be able to nail epstein with "sachten
    goldstein nails" that never fail. The court is real, Judge Jury are real and so
    is the executioner, and no names have been changed. Velo bichdi all this plays
    out in the month of "venahapoch hi asher yishletu hayhehudim heimo besonehem'!
    ken yovdu

  11. In many ways, the recent recordings put the whole case in a new light . Until now we thought it was all Epstein who was making the kangaroo beis din. Now we understand that it was the rca that did the beis din in absentia. Epstein and walmark just piggybacked on the psak of the rca. The only psak of their beis din was to reinforce the rca.

  12. No document obligates a Jew to abide by the edicts of a phony "Beis Din" operating in secret that doesn't invite him to all its relevant "proceedings" or follow any other aspect of Halachic due process.

  13. Who exactly expressed a wish to be coerced by anyone who felt like it?

  14. Asher pihem diber shavFebruary 24, 2015 at 2:26 AM

    If he wins round one. He will be in a very strong position to get a very lenient plea.

  15. Not more lenient than given to his underlings that have already pleaded guilty.

  16. Such a grand-butcher Nevuzradin has no prayer. He is dead meat, toast, no if's or butt's. Deserves the electric chair without mercy! Mida keneged mida, then we see what moves a Red Bull.

  17. Such a Grand-Butcher Nevuzaradin has no prayer. He is dead meat, toast,
    having no if's or butt's. Mida keneged mida, deserves the electric chair without
    mercy. Then we see what moves a Red-Bull.


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