New York: A religious counsellor in New York City`s ultra-orthodox Jewish community was Tuesday sentenced to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her faith.
Nechemya Weberman was convicted in December on 59 counts, including of sustained sexual abuse of a child, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse.
Both Weberman, 54, and the girl belonged to the Satmar Hasidic sect, which has its own ambulances, volunteer police and rabbinical courts. Followers are discouraged from going to secular authorities.
The trial put a spotlight on the city`s ultra-orthodox community and its strict rules that govern interaction with the outside world. The city is home to the largest community of ultra-orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 2,50,000.
The accuser, now 18, testified that Weberman abused her repeatedly behind his locked office door from the time she was 12 until she was 15.
Her school had ordered her to see Weberman because she had been asking questions about her religion and was dressing immodestly in violation of the sect`s customs. Weberman was not a licensed counsellor but spent decades working with couples and families.
There was no physical evidence of abuse.
The defence argued that the girl was angry that Weberman had told her parents she had a boyfriend at age 15, which is forbidden in the community. Attorney Stacey Richman said the case came down to a simple "he said, she said".
"She`s making things up in front of you as they occur," Richman had told jurors.