BROOKLYN, NY [CHI] — Before opening arguments began on Monday in state supreme court, where six Shomrim volunteers stand trial for an alleged assault, the prosecution notified the court that it will be seeking to revoke bail and may bring charges of witness-tampering before a grand jury against the Shomrim Six in connection to the witnesses being summoned Friday to the Jewish Court of Law, and the community pressure relating to the court case.
On Sunday night, the Israeli yeshiva students who pressed charges, along with attorney Paul Levi Huebner, arrived at the Beth Din at 9:30 PM. None of the rabbinical authorities were present at that time, so the group was told to return at 10:30 PM. When they convened later that night, the rabbinical authorities cautioned the yeshiva students, saying that testifying against fellow Jews is against Jewish law. The students agreed with the Jewish Court and gave their promise to not testify.
The following morning, the prosecution disclosed the matters discussed in the private chambers of the Jewish Court, seeking the incarceration of the Shomrim Six. At the end of the day, the prosecution announced that it is still considering witness-tampering charges but will not seek bail revocation, and asked the judge to warn the defendants against tampering with the witnesses.
The prosecution opened its case by telling the jury how it will prove that the Shomrim Six entered 749 Eastern Parkway the night of December 29, 2007, and assaulted helpless rabbinical students. The prosecution went on to say that a video will be shown, “but the video will not tell the whole story,” the assistant prosecuting district attorney said. He added that Shomrim members entered the room and said things like “I want him,” “Kiss my ***,” and “Get that camera.” Two injuries were documented at the hospital that evening: one student suffered a broken eye socket, and another, a broken finger.
Attorneys for the defense argued that the case of the broken finger was actually a broken metacarpal bone, known in laymen’s terms as a “boxer’s fracture,” indicating that the alleged victims may have been the aggressors rather than the defendants.
The defense attorneys further argued that the video evidence presented by the prosecution solely reveals a group of peacemakers standing around the dorm room with their arms by their sides, taking no aggressive action. They added that the defendants were at times surrounded by up to nine yeshiva students.
Sealing its opening address with the matter of motive, the defense highlighted two facts: that these alleged victims have $140 million reasons to lie, which is the amount that Huebner quoted in his lawsuit against Shomrim and the six volunteers individually, and that the volunteer patrol, Shmira’s influence in the case is apparent from their involvement in the witnesses’ reports.
The New York Daily News concluded in their article published today, “The defendants, members of the Shomrim watch group, face 15 years – and prosecutors were serious when they told Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Albert Tomei of possible witness tampering just before opening statements. The six defendants were called to a Yeshiva dorm on Eastern Parkway to break up a fight between four members of the Messianic group and others on Dec. 29, 2007.”
Following opening arguments, the prosecution called its first witness, a 23-year-old Canadian native and a current Rabbi in Colombia, who introduced himself as the translator and the go-to for Israeli yeshiva students since he speaks both Hebrew and English. The witness said that he has been living in the yeshiva dorm for the past five years.
During his testimony, the witness had a hard time distinguishing between the Hershkop brothers, three of whom are defendants. In response to why he asked Shomrim members to leave the dorm room on the night in question, the witness stated, “In the past, whenever Shomrim came there, people got hurt.” That statement elicited a call by the defense for mistrial, which the judge denied. The judge asked that the witness testify only that which he was witness to and exclude all speculation or hearsay.
The prosecution continued to question the first witness regarding the assault. The witness recounted in vivid detail how each of the defendants partook in various elements of the assault.
The court proceedings ended early on Monday afternoon and are set to resume on Wednesday, when the defense will open with witness cross-examination.