On the road to reform
By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s new district attorney has stayed true to his campaign promise to dismiss criminal charges against a Brooklyn father caught up in a questionable sex abuse case.
Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that the DA’s Office has moved to dismiss pending charges against Samuel Kellner, a whistleblower in several sexual abuse cases. The DA’s decision follows an internal reassessment of the case, as Kellner faced several charges brought by the previous administration.
Sam Kellner was a vocal member of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community who spoke out against covered-up sexual abuse within that community. Kellner’s own son, according to Kellner, was the victim of abuse by Brooklyn cantor Baruch Lebovits. In a turn of events, Kellner was charged with coaching his son to falsely accuse Lebovits in a scheme to extort money from the alleged abuser.
An appeals court overturned Lebovits’s conviction after his attorneys, Arthur L. Aidala and Alan M. Dershowitz, brought attention to Kellner’s indictment.
Kellner’s defense attorney, Michael Dowd, told Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ann Donnelly during a 2013 hearing that an ADA from the previous DA administration told him privately, “We cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Thompson had pushed former Kings County DA Charles Hynes to dismiss the charges against Kellner during the 2013 campaign to unseat Hynes; and having succeeded at the polls, Thompson has followed through.
“After a careful review of the evidence, we have concluded that the charges against Samuel Kellner must be dismissed,” Thompson said in a released statement. “We’ve reached this conclusion because we do not believe that we can prove these charges at trial.”
An investigation revealed that two core witnesses were found to have provided inconsistent statements that called their credibility into question, making it impossible to prove Kellner’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park), a longtime Kellner supporter, praised Thompson’s decision.
“Since last year I have had great concern with regard to the integrity of the case against Sam Kellner,” Hikind noted. “I was pleased when … a new prosecutor [was appointed] to consider the facts in the case, and now I am relieved that all charges against Sam have been dropped and this ordeal is finally over.”