Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jewish crime: With other accusers stepping forward, a former yeshiva teacher has changed pleas in the middle of his trial, admitting that he sexually abused a boy he met while working as a camp counselor

Rabbi Yoself Kolko, 36, shifted uncomfortably on the stand as he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sex assault, sexual assault and child endangerment. The abuse occurred from August 2008 to February 2009. It ranged from fondling to oral sex and stopped when the boy told his father, who confronted Kolko. The change in plea came after the prosecutor's office was contacted by a representative for a woman who said that she had been a victim of Kolko and a man who said that he had been a victim, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Laura Pierro said. The case may be a watershed for the prosecutor's office and the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, which has in the past been reluctant to bring criminal matters to civil authorities, preferring instead to handle them through rabbinical courts and senior rabbis. Kolko's bail was revoked, and he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation before sentencing. The plea came after only three of the prosecution's eight witnesses testified. The senior rabbi the father approached was due to testify, as were other members of the insular community who were expected to shed light on internal workings of Lakewood's Orthodox Jewish population and how such allegations were handled inside it. Prosecutors had said that the boy's family was ostracized by the Orthodox Jewish community for pursuing the case in state court. The boy's father, a prominent rabbi, lost his job and the family moved to Michigan. The boy, who was 11 and 12 when the abuse took place, in his testimony described a series of encounters with the rabbi, including molestation and oral sex. Kolko faced a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and a $650,000 fine, but the judge said that he will likely cap one count at 15 years and run sentences on any other counts concurrently.

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