Mikvah-peeping rabbi’s attorney appeals sentence in DC hearing

Julie Wiener

Rabbi Barry Freundel exiting the courthouse after entering his guilty plea, Feb. 19, 2015. (Dmitriy Shapiro/Washington Jewish Week)

Rabbi Barry Freundel exiting the courthouse after entering his guilty plea, Feb. 19, 2015. (Dmitriy Shapiro/Washington Jewish Week)

(JTA) — An attorney for Rabbi Barry Freundel argued in a Washington, D.C. appeals court for the appeal of the rabbi’s prison sentence.

Freundel, a once-prominent modern Orthodox rabbi who pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping women in his Washington, D.C. synagogue’s mikvah, or ritual bath, was sentenced last year to six and a half years in prison. His attorney argued Tuesday that the sentence is illegal, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, the court “seemed likely to reject” the attorney’s argument that the sentence should have been limited to one year in prison. The website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia says it “will likely take several weeks to several months after the argument for the Court of Appeals to issue its decision, which we will notify you of at that time.”

Freundel, who is 64, began serving his sentence in Washington, D.C. jail last May. However, in June, at his request, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia recommended that he be transferred to a federal correctional facility either in Otisville, New York, or Miami.

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Before his arrest in 2014, Freundel was the longtime rabbi of Kesher Israel in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., and an active member of the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox rabbinic group.

Freundel is believed to have violated the privacy of at least 150 women whom he filmed while they undressed and showered at the mikvah, including members of his Orthodox synagogue, candidates for conversion to Judaism and students at Towson University in Maryland, where Freundel taught classes on religion and ethics. The rabbi also secretly filmed a domestic violence abuse victim in a safe house he had set up for her.

In September, shortly before the High Holidays, he issued a letter of apology.

“My preference would be to apologize individually to each person I have hurt,” Freundel wrote in his letter, which was first published in the Washington Jewish Week. “However, I recognize that reaching out to convey my regret could cause further harm to some and that such contact would be unwelcome. Therefore, I thought that the only solution would be to apologize publicly.”

RELATED:

Barry Freundel’s former DC synagogue trying to move past mikvah trauma

Freundel apologizes for mikvah-peeping, but must Jews forgive?

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