WASHINGTON – A once-prominent Orthodox rabbi who pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping scores of women in a changing room of a Jewish ritual bath should spend more than 17 years in prison, prosecutors said Friday.
Prosecutors wrote in a 25-page court filing that the "extraordinary scope" of Bernard Freundel's crimes as well as "the premeditation and planning involved, the substantial abuse of the defendant's position of exception trust, and the severe impact on the victims" justified the sentence. Prosecutors submitted the court filing ahead of a sentencing hearing set for May 15.
Freundel acknowledged as part of a plea agreement in February that he secretly recorded more than 150 women over several years. A statute of limitations would have barred prosecutors from charging Freundel for every recording, however, and he pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, each count punishable by up to a year in jail. Prosecutors asked for 208 months prison, four months for each of the 52 counts.
Freundel's attorney, Jeffrey Harris, did not immediately return telephone calls.
Freundel, 63, led the Kesher Israel synagogue in Washington for 25 years before he was arrested in October after one of his recording devices was discovered. As part of a plea agreement, he acknowledged that starting in 2009 he set up hidden recording devices in a changing and showering area of The National Capital Mikvah, a ritual cleansing bath he worked to have built. He acknowledged he secretly videotaped women who were partially or totally undressed before and after they showered. The document prosecutors submitted Friday also said that Freundel recorded women as they were nude and using the toilet.
Police arrested Freundel after a camera hidden in a digital clock radio was discovered. Freundel acknowledged that he also used recording devices hidden in a fan and tissue box holder and in some instances "utilized up to three recording devices at the same time to obtain different angles of each woman being recorded."
Prosecutors said Freundel meticulously labeled the recordings.
"It is obvious from the sheer volume of recordings and the elaborate filing system he created that the defendant spent hundreds of hours watching and otherwise organizing the videos," prosecutors wrote.
Freundel was fired from the synagogue about a month and a half after his arrest.
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