A New Jersey rabbi was arrested in 2011, along with eight others, for the alleged kidnapping and beating of a man. The criminal charges involved an alleged conspiracy to convince an Israeli national to grant his wife a religious divorce under Jewish law.

The rabbi acknowledged that he was paid $100,000 by a wife who wanted him to coerce her husband to give her a Jewish divorce, known as a “get.” According to the indictment, the rabbi gathered a band of men willing to use violence to secure the “get.”

In the fall of 2010, the religious leader used a pretext to convince the husband to come to his house in New Jersey. The gang hired by the rabbi beat the husband for an extended period of time. The rabbi told the man he would be buried alive unless he agreed to the “get” and relinquished custody of his children to his ex-wife.

After the husband agreed to the demands, the rabbi instructed him to phone his family in Israel and demanded that they pay the wife back the $100,000. It was this phone conversation, clandestinely recorded by the victim’s father, which led to the arrests. The rabbi is heard on the tape threatening to shoot the father if he doesn’t provide the funds.

The rabbi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping in a New Jersey district court, where he will face sentencing in August. He could be fined as much as $250,000 and sent to prison for life.

Those like this rabbi, who face federal criminal charges, are wise to seek representation by a criminal defense attorney, to ensure that they understand their rights and legal options. The consequences of convictions in federal cases are very severe. In some cases, it is wise to negotiate a plea arrangement, but in others it is important to fight the charges at trial. The best criminal defense strategy depends on the specifics of the case at hand.

Source: New York Daily News, “New Jersey rabbi threatened to bury Israeli man alive if he did not agree to Jewish divorce: prosecutors,” by Bill Hutchinson, May 6, 2014