The trial of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor accused of repeatedly molesting a girl was disrupted on Thursday afternoon when four spectators in a Brooklyn courtroom were accused of taking pictures with their cellphones of the accuser on the witness stand.
The four men, identified by prosecutors as Joseph Fried, Yona Weisman, Abraham Zupnick and Lemon Juice, were arrested and charged with criminal contempt in the second degree, a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to one year in jail.
The accuser, who is now 17, has testified that she and her family had faced a pattern of intimidation from the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since she alleged last year that Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed therapist her parents had sent her to for counseling, repeatedly forced her to have oral sex during their sessions together from the time she was 12 until she turned 15.
In June, prosecutors charged four Williamsburg men with attempting to silence her by offering her a $500,000 bribe through her boyfriend to drop her participation in the case. Intimidation of sexual abuse victims in the ultra-Orthodox community is common, prosecutors say, because going to secular authorities with charges against another Jew is considered treasonous. But arrests for intimidation are rare.
Mr. Weberman’s accuser had already been provided with increased security after onlookers said they spotted Mr. Weberman staring at her threateningly through the window of a conference room as she rested during a break in the court session on Wednesday, said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. The defense denies that Mr. Weberman did this.
Then at about 2 p.m. Thursday, court officers spotted a man taking a picture of the teenager as she testified, Mr. Schmetterer said. The judge, Justice John G. Ingram, ordered the jury cleared from the 20th-floor courtroom in State Supreme Court, and the cellphones of all onlookers in the courtroom were confiscated.
The phones of the four men arrested had photos of the teenager that had been taken in the courtroom, and one photo appeared to have already been posted to Twitter, Mr. Schmetterer said. David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the court, said that Judge Ingram also admonished the men before allowing the trial to continue.
While the district attorney’s office did not comment on motive, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, an advocate for abuse victims who was in the courtroom, said that the men arrested were Satmar Hasidim, some of whom supported Mr. Weberman. “This is intimidation,” he said. “The government should not let this slide away, because this is not an accident. It is done deliberately in an effort to keep the law system from functioning.”