Sunday, May 17, 2015

Defense lawyer Nat Lewin explains how FBI got seruv for non-existent husband from ORA and Beis Din of America

Jewish Press     [...] There was also substantial evidence from FBI agents about the “sting” that was hatched by the FBI in March 2012. A female “certified undercover agent” who had been trained at a specialized school in Quantico, Virginia, was assigned to act as “a wife who was trying to obtain a get or a divorce from her husband.” Another undercover agent was assigned to act as her brother, and the FBI created a fictitious husband who was living in Argentina and had refused to give his wife a get.

The purpose of an FBI sting is to lure individuals who might commit a crime to do so in a manner that can easily be proved in court. Meetings with possible perpetrators are orally and visually recorded for presentation at a criminal trial.

The FBI’s undercover agents went about their business by first contacting the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) and asking for its assistance on behalf of the make-believe agunah. She sent an e-mail to ORA and followed up with several telephone calls. Believing her story, an ORA representative sent her to the Beth Din of America. The undercover agents then skillfully enacted the plight of a victimized agunah to responsible personnel at the Beth Din of America which, at their request, sent three summonses (hazmanas) to the fictitious husband at a fictitious address in Florida. (The agent testified that it was really a “post office mailbox.”) When the husband failed to reply (because, as the agent acknowledged on the witness stand, he “did not exist”), the agents persuaded the Beth Din of America to issue a seruv, signed by its chief rabbinical authority.

In order to accomplish this objective and persuade the Beth Din of America to issue the seruv, the agents fabricated a fictitious e-mail from the nonexistent husband to the purported brother acknowledging receipt of the hazmanas. Copies of the Beth Din of America’s warning and the seruv signed by the rabbinical authority were introduced in evidence. (Would the FBI treat so cavalierly and mislead an equivalent Christian or Muslim religious authority in order to advance a sting?)

With the seruv in hand and with very effective dramatic portrayals of a weeping desperate agunah, the FBI undercover agents contacted the rabbis whom they lured into commission of what the Department of Justice viewed as criminal conduct – i.e., an attempt to commit kidnappings of the kind that had been committed against recalcitrant husbands in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

The sting succeeded famously. On the night of October 9, 2013, eight Orthodox men were arrested at a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey. The prosecutors alleged they had come there to violently force the non-existent Argentinian husband to give a get.[...]


  1. Would the FBI treat so cavalierly and mislead an equivalent Christian or Muslim religious authority in order to advance a sting?

    A corrupt ruse of people calling themselves a "beth din", tribunal, or any other term? Yes! It's been done, and Nat Lewin knows this better than I do.

    How does the BDA go about issuing a siruv without contacting the local Beis Din in Florida? Is the goal of the BDA to resolve the case efficiently, justly and expediently, or is the goal of the BDA to pursue their personal agenda? If their goal would be to resolve this issue efficiently, justly and expediently, then they would have contacted the local Bottei Din and rabbis in Florida to help resolve this delicately.

    Of course, if the goal of the BDA is to further an agenda, to push them up as the players in rabbinics, then this way of issuing siruvim and wink-winking the beat-up team is just fine.

  2. In order to accomplish this objective and persuade the Beth Din of America to issue theseruv, the agents fabricated a fictitious e-mail from the nonexistent husband to the purported brother acknowledging receipt of the hazmanas.

    Hold on a minute here, Mr. Lewin and BDA. A beth din can issue a siruv based upon the testimony and "proof" that a brother of the woman (נוגע בעדותו)? Shame on you, Beth Din of America! Shame on you, Mr. Lewin!

  3. This shows how worthless a seruv against a husband in a contentious divorce case from the BDA and other such "beit din"'s are.

  4. So the scenario is ORA determines the non-existent husband is causing his wife to be an agunah and refers it to the BDA. The BDA sends the non-existent husband a hazmana. The BDA puts the non-existent husband into a Seruv. Mendel Epstein convenes his kangaroo beis din and issues a kefiya/kofin oso order against a non-existent husband.

    Great and easy template for any wife wishing to obtain a Seruv against her husband and a kefiya/kofin oso ruling even if he has no halachic obligation to give her a Get.

  5. the Satan desires chava.
    now do you understand?

  6. And ORA, of course, gets off scott free...

  7. How much did the fbi pay off for their services?

  8. Would
    the FBI treat so cavalierly and mislead an equivalent Christian or
    Muslim religious authority in order to advance a sting?

    While that may be a valid question (or not), it still does not in any way afford a לימוד זכות to Mendel Epstein and his חברה. Regardless of how the FBI might treat the indiscretions of a נוצרי or ישמעאלי religious authority, we Jews, as the hot dog ad stated, "Must answer to a Higher Authority."

  9. Asher pihem diber shavMay 18, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but doesn't a beis din need to serve papers to the actual person before they issue a siruv ? Isn't that the standard of the secular courts (process serving) is it not the same for beis din ?

  10. A bogus seruv signed by Gedalia Dov Schwartz. What a paragon of virtue he is!

  11. Of course. And an even bigger point is that beis din cannot conduct a trial in absentia, as Mr. Mendel Epstein and Wolmark purpoted to do in their "beis din trial" where they ordered kofin oso/kefiya against a husband who not only did not appear in the trial they were ruling on him, but in fact he didn't even exist.

  12. It would never happen in
    Israel, getting a bait din seruv for a non-existent husband. Israel keeps the
    Torah. I quote: “You shall appoint
    magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord
    your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. You
    shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take
    bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the
    just. Justice, justice shall you pursue, thrive and occupy the land that the
    Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The BDA has their focus “obtaining Jewish
    divorces, confirming personal status and adjudicating commercial disputes
    stemming from divorce, business and community issues.” In Israel the focus is “Justice,
    justice shall you pursue.”

  13. What is interesting is that ORA is great at getting the message out when they perceive some wrongdoing. You name it: protests, articles, videos, ads in train stations (!), on and on. Phone calls: I seem to recall that a few years ago when I got involved, Rabbi Jeremy Stern contacted the Rabbi of the Shul where I Daven in an attempt to control me. But...when the "Organization" is caught in an indiscretion: mouth scrunched up like its been sucking a lemon, they've froze like a rabbit caught in the light of a headlamp.

  14. Will this info on how the BDA operates possibly end up with them losing their recognition as a valid bais din?

  15. Yes. If the נטען or נטבע is sent three הזמנות, and still does not appear before the בי״ד that issued them, the נטבע is then considered to be מסרב לבי״ד.

  16. I dunno much about the BDA or RCA but I know for darn sure that nothing signed by Rabbi Gedaliah Schwartz is worth anything in my eyes from this day forward. Seeing that he was one of the three signees on the Seminary Scandal letter, I have even less faith in its allegations than I did before.

  17. The rav who certified the briskman forced get is the same one who is rav hamachshir for those hot dogs, that answers to the higher authority.

  18. What a horrid comedy of errors! Everyone seems to be a "Joker" in this pack of cards:

    Crazy wives!

    Crazy husbands!

    Crazy rabbis!

    Crazy Batei Din!

    Crazy "law enforcement" cops!

    Crazy courts!

    Crazy lawyers!

    Crazy defendants!

    Crazy plaintiffs!

    It's a mad, mad, mad world!

    And everyone's either working for dirty big bucks or chasing an illusory buck!

  19. Where did you see he certified the Briskman forced Get as being valid?

  20. There are plenty of (otherwise respectable) rabbonim who respect him (and his pronouncements) nevertheless. Who wants to get involved in looking into (what they think are complicated) get cases? Especially when you have an otherwise respectable rav who says 'seruv.'

    If the OU (or other kashrut agency) makes a mistake, so what? Same thing, if a dayan makes a mistake, so what? In their opinion.

  21. it has happened in Israel , perhaps not the exact case, but a "dayan" was arrested for taking bribes etc.

  22. Um, why Mr. Lewin? He's just relating to readers what is in the records from the government.

  23. 1) Please read two sentences prior to the one I quoted.

    The undercover agents then skillfully enacted the plight of a victimized agunah to responsible personnel at the Beth Din of America which..

    2) In the print edition of this article, Mr. Lewin is indicated very clearly that the BDA was on the side of the "right horse", and that the government had "bet on the wrong horse".

  24. 1) I'm sorry, what do you believe the word 'responsible' means such that it is cause to 'shame' Mr. Lewin? Also, if this is your proof for your conclusion of 'shame', why not quote it the first time. Could you please explain your argument explicitly rather than forcing this poor reader to infer?
    2) I have read the print edition of the article twice now and do not at all see what you are referring to. Mr. Lewin did not 'bet' on any horse. He is presenting facts and background related to actions and interactions by as well as between the defendants and agents of the Federal government. In no place does he say the BDA was 'right'. He only says they were [well] tricked. He appears not to like that they were [well] tricked. He does not suggest anything else. There is nothing "...indicated very clearly..." that I can see. If you see otherwise, please feel free to cite the text showing such indication.

    Mr. Lewin described what happened in court and his understanding of facts surrounding the case. He explicitly states the Feds duped ORA and BDA, and that the organizations fell for it, perhaps impuning their own integrity in the process. I believe your horse analogy is inaccurate as it suggests there are two equal sides in competition. He is working for one horse, period. Mr. Lewin seems to be to both answering questions the public had about the trial and, perhaps more importantly, presenting elements that were was not allowed in court. He's not showing an entire picture, explaining why one side was right or wrong, nor is he going to argue plaintiff's case for them. He's acting in the interest of his client. To me that is the American system; there is no shame in that so long as he is honest, regardless of guilt or innocence. To disagree with this is to question the foundation of the adversarial system used used in our judicial process.

    The rest is your inference, which to me seems unsubstantiated, though I'm willing to see otherwise.

  25. Are you sure you read the print edition?

    Please read it in its entirety. Page and 6 and 20.

    Its difficult for me to quote all the relevant parts, as I cannot copy and paste.

    You wrote:I believe your horse analogy is inaccurate as it suggests there are two equal sides in competition.

    Here is one:

    did the FBI, at enormous government expense, back the wrong side in the ongoing battle ... and choose to lure into alleged criminal conduct Orthodox Jews whose principal objective was to free agunot?

    In my opening statment at the trial I quoted... "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidous encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

    The prosecuter howled..

  26. I'm sure there are still some people who respect him and his pronouncements. Lots of people still trust Hillary Clinton too.
    My point was that based on two instances that have recently come to light, I no longer do and I know that I'm far from alone. I've discussed both of these situations with some fairly respectable rabbanim and they're aghast at the fact that he never took the time to verify some basic facts before committing his name to paper. One Rav went so far as to tell me that he no longer recommends the CRC Kashrus symbol as reliable because of his loss of respect for its leader.

  27. Thanks. I did not actually see the entire text, having read it from a site which alleged to have it but did not.

    So, my answer is two-fold.

    A) I do not think he's speaking to the absolute 'rightness' (or even the relative 'rightorness') of the defendants. It seems to me he is mixing two elements as a defense for his client: 1) That the government, in a [misguided] attempt to curb this criminal activity, undertook an excessive and inappropriately large effort to fool these people into [allegedly] committing illegal acts, and that this action was based on the governments misunderstanding of the relative 'badness' of the actions (i.e., more Robin Hood than strict vigilantism). 2) This, coupled with the [at least partially] good intentions of those involved means the kidnapping charge is wholly excessive (Mr. Lewin says as much at the article's end based on the jury's decision as well as the prosecution taking actual kidnapping off the table).

    B) I do not know what Mr. Lewin really believes, but I suspect he is not actually in favor of any coercion in the get process. His wording is very (perhaps too) subtle, avoiding claims of entrapment, any admissions, or vigilantism. Again, he is defending his client. You [and I] may not enjoy his arguments, but if he believes they are in the interest of his client it would be an abrogation of his duties not to make them.

    Thank you for your civil response!

  28. That was a gerut case (multiple).

  29. However, the nitva can demand another bet din. The BDA does not allow that universally accepted procedure.

  30. RDE posted an extensive 'scribd' file.

  31. Didf the FBI trick ora / bda, or was this standard negligence of ora / bda?

    Did ora / bda disavow the seruv? Before or after they found out it was a 'trick'?

    How much did ora / bda earn from this case?

  32. Rav Moshe paskens in the Igros Moshe that anyone has the right to insist on zabla for any beis din case.

  33. I saw the scribd but I didn't notice it indicating that Rabbi Ralbag certified the Briskman coerced Get as being valid. I saw it mention Rabbi Ralbag's involvement in certifying whether the Markowitz coerced Get was valid.

  34. Didf the FBI trick ora / bda, or was this standard negligence of ora / bda?

    Does it matter? It's reprehensible either way.

  35. Defending the client takes place in court. Writing opinion pieces in newspapers speaks to his personal opinion.

  36. Orthodox Jews whose principal objective was to free agunot?

    This line, as applied to Mendel Epstein, is an untruth. Epstein would "chain" women through bogus heter me'ah without being mashlish a get as readily as he would "free" them through coerced gittin. It was for the money, not for altruistic reasons.

  37. but the BDA will issue a seruv anyway.

  38. I corrected the comment.
    I do answer to a higher authority -- the truth.
    thanks for the correction.

  39. I think that's a perspective, but perhaps not a complete one, nor I believe one a trial attorney would consider accurate or useful. First, you need to realize there are still several motions outstanding. Second, the sentencing portion of the trial is not for some time and the judge takes into consideration things like public sentiment, letters, etc. Third, if there is an appeal leading to another trial, to not have something like these articles in the media would be a disservice to his client. He may not have been able to make the point in front of the jury, but he darn well will try to make it before the masses.


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