Yosef Kolko, 39, was sentenced late Thursday in Toms River, N.J. to close to 13 years, after the judge refused to let him take back a guilty plea to aggravated sexual assault which he had made in May, the AP reports.
Kolko’s victim, a 16-year-old boy who was 12 at the time the crime was committed, told the court about the hostile treatment he and his family had received from the Orthodox community where they live. Nevertheless, he urged other young people in a similar situation to his to come forward and speak out.
“I strongly urge you to go to the authorities and share your story. I can’t say it will be easy,” but “victims are getting stronger every day,” he said.
Prosecutors told the AP that the boy’s family was ostracized by the local Orthodox community for turning Kolko in and for pursuing the case in state court instead of letting religious leaders deal with it. The boy’s father, a prominent rabbi, lost his job and the family was forced to move to Michigan.
The boy also addressed Kolko directly.
“How can you ignore the tears and open wounds when you knew how much you hurt me?” he asked, concluding: “It’s ego and stubbornness that got you here, not me.”
Kolko tried to withdraw his guilty plea before sentencing, claiming that members of the Lakewood community were forcing him to sign on to it, to avoid a shameful trial. He claimed he had signed the plea deal under duress, and his brother testified Thursday in support of his claim. But the prosecutor said he had months to come forward with the duress claim, and the judge refused to allow it. In the end Kolko declined to speak in his own behalf before the sentencing.