WASHINGTON — The D.C. rabbi convicted of secretly video-recording 52 women preparing for a ritual bath has had his sentenced upheld in D.C. Superior Court.
Barry Freundel, 63, was sentenced in May for the surreptitious recording of women at Georgetown’s Kesher Israel Synagogue. He was given 45 days of prison time for each count, totaling approximately 6.5 years. He pleaded guilty to the charges in February.
“The conduct in this case does not engender in me a desire to be lenient, to be overly lenient,” Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin told the court, rejecting Freundel’s request to reconsider the sentence.
Freundel’s lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, lost his argument that the once well-respected Orthodox rabbi should be punished for a single crime: the video-recording of disrobing women.
Evidence in the case shows that Freundel installed and maintained recording devices in changing/showering rooms used by women at the National Capital Mikvah between 2009 and 2014.
“Our position is that there is no evidence he ever came to a fork in the road,” argued Harris, contending that the series of video recordings grew out of one impulse and thus constitutes one crime.
But government lawyers told the judge it’s not the act of recording that is the crime, it’s violating the privacy of each of the individuals.
While Freundel was convicted of taping 52 women, computer examinations revealed that he secretly video-recorded approximately 100 others.
“I’m happy that the judge made the decision that he did,” says Jeffrey Shulevitz, who is the husband of one of the victims.
“It was an easy call for the judge,” says Steve Kelly, a lawyer who represents about 30 of Freundel’s victims in a class-action lawsuit against Kesher Israel. “Accountability is important. I think every one of the victims is very desirous of having individual justice. This was a harm that was done to them. It was a devastating harm,” he says.