Prosecutors downplay that plea deal for rabbi could be in works

WASHINGTON – Any talk of a plea agreement with a Georgetown rabbi charged with voyeurism is premature, D.C. prosecutors said hours after suggesting in court that a deal might be offered.

During a status hearing in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday, prosecutors asked a judge for additional time before the case moves forward to negotiate a possible plea deal with Rabbi Barry Freundel, who is accused of secretly recording women as they undressed for a ritual cleansing.

The suggestion that the case would not go to trial angered representatives of victims who were in the courtroom, sparked an outcry on social media and quickly drew a clarification from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A statement from the office says that the investigation continues and that no plea offer has been made.

Freundel’s defense team had also sought a delay because it has not yet been able to see videos seized by police.

D.C. Police say Freundel used a camera hidden in a clock radio to record victims while they used a ritual bath known as a mikvah. He faces six counts of misdemeanor voyeurism.

“I really don’t think that the public will tolerate a plea bargain in a situation like this,” said Ira Sherman, a lawyer representing an unnamed person claiming to be a victim in the case. Sherman says for any victim, a plea “would be just adding insult to injury.”

Sherman and another lawyer, Joseph Cammarata, said a civil case could be in the works, regardless of what happens in the criminal justice system. Freundel, Kesher Israel, and the Rabbinical Council of America are among those that could potentially be sued, the lawyers said.

Sherman and Cammarata say police have been asking potential victims for headshot photos, and are comparing those photos to faces seen on seized videos.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has set up a Web page for any possible victims, which lists upcoming court dates in the case and information for contacting prosecutors. However, the judge Wednesday ordered that court documents containing facts about the case be taken down from the page.

Freundel is currently free but not allowed to leave the country. He is next expected in court on Jan. 16. A court order says he must stay away from the Kesher Israel Congregation and the National Capital Mikvah, where the videos were recorded.

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