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Rabbis charged in torture-for-hire case

A bizarre criminal case in New Jersey has led to the arraignment of two Orthodox Jewish rabbis in New Jersey after an investigation into an alleged torture-for-hire scheme. The two men, along with eight others who are not affiliated with the religion, are accused of several felonies in connection with the case. The group is accused of inflicting physical injury upon men who refused to grant their wives religious divorces.

Officers say they set up a sting to entrap the group after they learned about the nature of the services offered. An FBI agent posed as a woman who was in a deteriorating marriage, calling the rabbis for assistance in convincing him to grant her a religious dissolution. The 10 defendants were arrested as they supposedly waited for the reluctant husband.

Investigators say they suspect that the group may be responsible for more than a dozen kidnappings and torture sessions during recent years. According to an initial inquiry, women who were seeking religious divorce could pay between $60,000 and $70,000 for the services, which would include a bribe to convince a rabbinical court that the kidnapping was necessary. A group of "tough guys" was enlisted to carry out the actual physical injury.

Divorce in Orthodox Judaism requires more steps than simply filing for a breakup in state court. In order to obtain a divorce, a woman must receive a religious document from her husband. Many of these husbands fail to provide the woman with the document, even though they may be ordered to do so by the religious courts. In many cases, divorces have been ongoing because of the man's stubborn refusal to issue the writ.

The two rabbis had previously been accused of civil racketeering in connection with a similar case, though no criminal charges were filed. Now, all 10 of the defendants are being held without bond in the case. Even though it may seem that the men were horribly misguided in their alleged actions, they may have thought that they were acting in the best interests of their community. Defendants in cases such as this deserve representation from qualified criminal attorneys who can understand how to combine perspectives on the law and religion.

Source: www.nj.com, "2 rabbis, 8 others charged in N.J. kidnapping and torture plot to force divorce" Ted Sherman & Salvador Rizzo, Oct. 11, 2013

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