Opening statements have begun in the trial of a rabbi who allegedly ran divorce kidnap team

February 19, 2015 9:02 am
Opening statements have begun in the trial of a rabbi who prosecutors
say employed a kidnap team to force unwilling Jewish husbands to
divorce their wives.
Rabbi Mendel Epstein faces charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping.
Prosecutors
allege the Orthodox rabbi’s team used brutal methods and tools,
including handcuffs and electric cattle prods, to torture the men into
granting divorces. Defense attorney Robert Stahl says the Orthodox rabbi
wasn’t involved in any crimes and is a “champion of women’s rights.”
Several co-defendants have pleaded guilty in the case, while others are on trial with Epstein.
During
their opening statement, prosecutors played a short, grainy clip of
Epstein discussing a staged kidnapping with two undercover FBI agents.
He tells them: “Basically, what we’re going to be doing is kidnapping a
guy for a couple hours.”

Rabbi Mendel Epstein arrives for his trial. Photo / AP

The kidnap team brought surgical blades, a screwdriver and
rope to a staged kidnapping in 2013, authorities have said. Epstein,
who was indicted last May along with his son and three other Orthodox
rabbis, allegedly told the undercover agents he arranged similar
kidnappings every year or year and a half.
“If (the cattle prod)
can get a bull that weighs 5 tons to move, you put it in certain parts
of his body and in one minute the guy will know,” prosecutors said
Epstein told two undercover FBI agents posing as a brother and sister
trying to force the sister’s husband to grant the ritual Jewish divorce
known as a “get.” Prosecutors say he was recorded telling the agents the
effort would cost at least $50,000.
Stahl has disputed the charges against Epstein, who wrote the 1989 book “A Woman’s Guide to the Get Process.”

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