A once-prominent Orthodox rabbi who admitted to secretly videotaping scores of women in a changing room at a Jewish ritual bath was sentenced to nearly six and a half years in prison Friday.
Rabbi Bernard "Barry" Freundel was sentenced in Washington, D.C., court after 16 of his victims -- some in tears -- spoke against him, sharing their pain and suffering during the three-hour sentencing.
Some had called him a "pervert" and a "predator" in impact statements given to prosecutors before the hearing.
"He used his power over us at our most vulnerable," one said.
"His manipulation was pre-meditated and calculating," said another.
Freundel was sentenced to 45 days on each of 52 counts of voyeurism to be served consecutively, which comes to 2,340 days in prison, or just less than six and a half years.
He pleaded forgiveness at his sentencing, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry... I am horrified and literally disgraced."
U.S. & World
Freundel said he has been seeing a psychotherapist.
"I can't imagine ever giving into this impulse again," he said.
But Judge Geoffrey Alprin said there was no excuse.
"The defendant repeatedly and seriously violated the trust and abused his power," Alprin said. "The conduct is despicable. There is no justification. The defendant lured victims to the mikvah and secretly recorded them undressed without their knowledge or permission."
The women were recorded while taking ritual baths associated with rites of family purity and conversion at the National Capital Mikvah, a ritual bathhouse affiliated with Freundel's former synagogue in Georgetown. Freundel had worked to get the mikvah constructed.
Freundel was the rabbi at the Kesher Israel synagogue for a quarter-century before he was arrested last October, accused of hiding a video camera inside a clock radio and aiming it at a shower at the mikvah.
Prosecutors said his recordings captured women undressing, using the toilet and entering and exiting a shower.
One victim, Emma Shulevitz, said that when she went to the Capital Mikvah to convert to Judaism in 2012, Freundel told her not to put anything in front of the clock radio as she undressed. She said she felt betrayed after learning it contained a hidden camera.
"I feel violated," she said after the case came to light. "This is supposed to be between a woman and God, not between a woman and a rabbi."
Shulevitz was among the victims who spoke during Freundel's sentencing Friday.
In February, Freundel pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, but acknowledged as part of a plea agreement that he secretly recorded more than 150 women over several years. A three-year statute of limitations would have barred prosecutors from charging Freundel for every recording.
Each count was punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 (or $2,500 for offenses occurring on or after June 11, 2013), or both.
In February, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said prosecutors would seek "a prison sentence that reflects the gravity of this disturbing assault on the privacy and dignity of so many victims."
Freundel was fired in the wake of his arrest, and the National Capital Mikvah also severed ties with him.