Should a serial voyeurist be given a mere sentence of community service for filming women at religious baths?
A criminal case nearing an end in the nation’s capital readily brought to mind the folkloric Peeping Tom, who couldn’t resist peering at Lady Godiva as she rode bareback and in the altogether through the streets of Coventry as a form of protest. As the story goes, Tom, a tailor, gave into his urge to gaze at Godiva, who had forewarned onlookers — and Tom paid the ultimate price.
Barry Freundel is an admitted Peeping Tom.
An orthodox rabbi, he pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court in February to secretly videotaping 52 women as they prepared for a mikvah, or ritual bath, at the Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown.
Prosecutors say Freundel conducted similar recordings of scores of other women, events that have fallen outside the statue of limitations for prosecution. Freundel, 64, could be sentenced to four months for each of the 52 counts, which tallied consecutively would lead to confinement of about 17 years.
Freundel and his victims will learn his fate on May 15, when the women he filmed are scheduled to speak in open court and Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin is expected to deliver a sentence.
Leniency, I suspect, is on the judge’s mind, and there are an untold number of other cases that, perhaps, suggest that a sentence of community service might indeed fit the crime. There are so many celebrity cases aligned with that sort of thinking — from Lindsay Lohan and Chris Brown to Mel Gibson and Paris Hilton.
But what would Freundel have Judge Alprin, a senior judge who has served more than two decades on the bench, do? Sentence him to four hours of community service per count? To be served over a 17-year period? Allow him to stay free until age 81 or his final hour, whichever comes first?
How could Freundel even parse his lips to ask his attorney, Jeffrey Harris, to seek such a pardon after he already had said in his signed plea agreement, “I am pleading guilty because I am in fact guilty of the offenses set forth herein.”
If Judge Alprin, a Reagan appointee whose late father, Judge Jacob J. Alprin, served on Rhode Island’s family court, allows any type of community service, his name could land on the laughingstock list because the facts are the facts.
Freundel strategically placed a fake clock radio in the synagogue to videotape women in various modes of undress, women who thought they were in a safe, private and religious environment to perform a ritual central to Orthodox Judaism.
Freundel’s attorney says his client is humiliated and no longer has credibility as a Judaic scholar or counselor. This is no surprise.
To allow Freundel out into the community in any capacity would not only be a disservice to any community, but a travesty of justice, to boot.
Freundel is a serial Peeping Tom. He’s a sick, sick man who broke the law for so long, even the long arm of John Law was shortened.
If Freundel is dead set on serving the community, let him work with a warden to “give back” behind bars. And while Peeping Tom is behind bars, he can receive counseling, too.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.