WASHINGTON — A once-prominent Orthodox rabbi who pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping nude women at a Jewish ritual bath in Washington was given a lawful penalty when a judge sentenced him to approximately 6 ½ years in prison, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld Rabbi Bernard Freundel’s sentence in a unanimous 21-page ruling.
Freundel’s lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, had said during oral arguments in June that his client’s sentence should have been limited to one year in prison. As part of a plea deal, Freundel had pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, a charge that carries up to a year in jail. A judge sentenced him to 45 days on each count, running the sentences one after another. Freundel’s attorney had argued that the sentences should have run concurrently, meaning Freundel would have served 45 days.
But, in an opinion for himself and two colleagues, Judge Roy W. McLeese wrote that District of Columbia law “unambiguously permits separate punishment for each of Mr. Freundel’s fifty-two victims in this case.”
“We conclude that Mr. Freundel’s sentences are lawful,” McLeese wrote.
Freundel’s lawyer did not immediately respond Thursday to telephone and e-mail messages from The Associated Press.
Freundel was arrested in 2014 after one of his recording devices was discovered at the National Capital Mikvah in Washington. Prosecutors found that he had filmed some 150 women at the Jewish ritual bath using recording devices hidden in a clock radio, a fan and a tissue box holder. A statute of limitations would have barred prosecutors from charging Freundel for every recording, however, and he pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism. As part of his guilty plea he acknowledged that he made the secret recordings from 2009 to 2014.