CROWN HEIGHTS [CHI] – Three and a half years later, the Crown Heights Shomrim Volunteers who were brutally persecuted in one of Crown Heights’ most ugly Mesiras to date have scored a final and definite victory, when a New York State court tossed out a $144 million lawsuit which has been hanging over their heads since December 2008.
Shomrim is an all-volunteer anti-crime and assistance group, which patrols the streets of Crown Heights in the hopes of deterring crime; they also offer non-emergency assistance when possible. But on a Motzai Shabbos in December of ’07 the tables were turned. During a routine call involving a dispute between two roommates, the volunteers were attacked by a mob and became those who needed the community’s help.
Most of the community stood idly by and watched as the drama unfolded in the state’s criminal court system, where six Shomrim volunteers faced up to 15 years in prison for a concocted blood libel which accused them of gang assault. Those charges were thrown out by the judge before even reaching a jury.
Leading the charge was Paul ‘Levi’ Huebner, an attorney and member of Shmira – a rival patrol group – who operates under the auspices of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, with the assistance of Elie Poltorack, another attorney who was ousted from the Vaad Hakohol in the latest elections.
Mr. Huebner inserted himself into the police investigation from the very beginning by acting as a ‘translator’ for the ‘victims.’ He did this while setting himself up to represent the same victims in a civil lawsuit – a fact which he neglected to mention to the police department, leading to ethics charges against him.
During the criminal trial the defense lawyers chipped away at the prosecution’s case until the entire thing imploded. They innocently asked the ‘victims’ if they went to any doctors for follow-up visits or if they were on any long term medications resulting from the altercation, to which all but one responded that they had not. The only one who went for any sort of follow-up visit was Schneur Rotem, and he said that the doctor he visited was “his mother” – who used to be a nurse.
A year later Mr. Huebner brought the civil lawsuit against Shomrim, acting as a representative for the alleged ‘victims’ – members of the radical Mishechist faction: Elkon Moshe Gurfinkel, Zalman Bronshtein, Schneur Rotem, and Yakov Shatz – in charges that they suffered massive injuries, permanent in nature, from which they suffer daily. The quantified amount of money that added up to – according to their lawyer Paul Huebner’s lawsuit filing – was $144 million.
But the brilliant maneuvering of the defense lawyers in the criminal case basically undermined the entire civil case, because the victims had freely admitted that they did not in fact suffer any serious wounds.
This did not stop Paul Huebner from perusing the civil case – in the name of the discredited victims. Since his claims were entirely baseless, he employed delay tactics such as appearing in court and “mistakenly forgetting his briefcase on the subway,” or bringing doctors notes that he was on some form of medication which did not allow him to think clearly.
Finally on November 29, 2011, the honorable judge Bernadette Bayne got fed up and ordered that the case move forward; Shomrim, the defendants, issued a note of issue stating that they were ready for trial. A trial date was set for July 6, 2012.
When the day came around Shomrim’s lawyer was present in the courtroom at 360 Adams Street, but the plaintiffs’ lawyer was not. The judged then disposed of the case and struck it off the court calendars.
The conclusion of this civil lawsuit marks the end of the persecution of the ‘Shomrim Six.’
A spokesperson for Shomrim told CrownHeights.info: “the same feeling we had when the knife of 15 years in prison hung over our heads, we felt before today, and when that evil decree was lifted and we sang the words from Psalms 55 ‘Pada be’shalom nafshi’ – we are singing it today once again.”