We were dismayed by the picture of prosecutorial excess compellingly painted in last week’s front-page essay by Washington lawyer Nathan Lewin. Mr. Lewin wrote of the case of three rabbis convicted and sentenced to long prison terms in an FBI sting operation involving an ostensibly forced get. It points to an alarming trend in our country of selective enforcement and should be required reading for all who cling to the simplistic notion that America is a place for exclusively even-handed justice.

The three rabbis were induced to agree to participate in a fictitious forced Get featuring a fictitious agunah and a fictitious recalcitrant husband. To be sure, the underlying “facts” in a sting operation – which is ordinarily an acceptable prosecutorial tactic – are by definition fabrications. But there is a chilling overarching element in this episode. In unprecedented fashion, in order to make its sham operation more believable to the three rabbis, the FBI insinuated itself via an elaborate charade into the bet din system, securing the issuance of a seruv by a leading bet din against the non-existent husband.


Sting operations must be based on a target’s predisposition to commit a crime similar to the scripted crime. And while it was charged that the three had earlier engaged in forced Get procedures based on the claims of three alleged victims, can anyone recall even one sting operation mounted against a Catholic institution or clergyman in the wake of the countless charges of sex abuse involving priests over the past two decades? Can anyone imagine the uproar that would have ensued had a Catholic ecclesiastical court been purposefully manipulated by governmental authorities?

How does the FBI’s Get sting square with the seeming obsession by the courts to keep police authorities at arm’s length from mosques and emasculating any program of monitoring despite the fact that virtually all perpetrators of terrorist attacks cite their allegiance to Islamic jihad? And what would be the reaction if the FBI had acted toward a Sharia court as it did toward a rabbinical court in the case of the three rabbis?

Moreover, the rabbis were tried (in the same trial) for their “sting crimes” as well as charges that they had actually administered beatings to three recalcitrant husbands. Yet they were acquitted of all charges except for the fictitious “sting crimes.”

As the Lewin article makes plain, the profound plight of an agunah was largely kept from the jury by the judge. And the judge’s draconian sentencing, essentially for committing a manufactured crime, reflects no appreciation of that plight or the notion that people would be motivated to try to help.

Certainly the harm ordinarily caused by recalcitrant husbands seems not to have been in play. All that seems reflected in the verdict and sentencing is that the rabbis colluded to inflict bodily harm. So people are going to jail for a long time without having been convicted of a “real” crime despite federal prosecutors’ efforts to so convict them.


Previous articleIran…Again
Next articleWhere To Go – What To Do: Winter 2016