WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rabbi Barry Freundel, a once-prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi in Washington, D.C., who was convicted for secretly videotaping women in his synagogue’s mikvah, is scheduled to be released early from prison.
First, however, an assistant U.S. attorney is asking his victims whether they object to Freundel getting his freedom before his scheduled release on April 15 because the coronavirus is accelerating the release of prisoners.
Freundel, 68, who began serving his prison term in May 2015, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years after pleading guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, a charge that carries up to a year’s incarceration. He was due out toward the end of 2021.
A message this week to Freundel’s victims from Amy Zubrensky of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, said Freundel had accrued “good time” credit for “classes and/or other rehabilitative conduct,” advancing his release date to April 15.
She added that he may be released even earlier — as early as April 3 — because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Zubrensky said she wanted to hear from victims before deciding whether to oppose early release. She must register any objections by Friday.
One of his victims, Bethany Mandel, said she saw the difference between release on April 3 or April 15 as minimal, especially given the limitations the coronavirus lockdown has imposed on people in the D.C. area, where he is likely to settle once he is out.
“I’m much less concerned about running into him at shul and the grocery store,” said Mandel, who lives in the Washington area.
Another victim, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote Zubrensky saying that it would be painful to know that Freundel would be released before Passover.
“Although I know that it is just a matter of a few days, releasing Freundel later this week or early next means releasing him on the eve of Passover, when Jews remember being released from slavery in Egypt,” this victim said. “This early release, granting Freundel the ability to celebrate his own freedom together with Passover, is a final smack in the face to victims.”
JTA has reached out to Zubrensky and to Freundel’s attorney in 2015, Jeff Harris, for comment.
For at least six months and on dozens of occasions, JTA has asked Keena Blackmon, the spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, for information on Freundel’s date of release. She has never returned calls.