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Singles Connection

March 30, 2001/Nisan 6, 5761, Vol. 53, No.26

Lanner charged with sex abuse

The New York Jewish Week
NEW YORK - Nine months after The Jewish Week reported on allegations that Rabbi Baruch Lanner had abused teenagers in his charge for three decades, a Monmouth County, N.J., grand jury indicted him last week on six criminal charges.

The rabbi faces two counts each of aggravated criminal sexual conduct, criminal sexual conduct and endangering the welfare of a child. The crimes are second-, third- and fourth-degree offenses. A second-degree offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

An arraignment will be scheduled in the next six weeks, according to Mark Fliedner, assistant prosecutor in Monmouth County. Lanner will be required to appear and bail will be set.

Fliedner told The Jewish Week the investigation, conducted by the prosecutor's office and the Ocean Township, N.J., Police Department, was "lengthy and exhaustive," and originated with The Jewish Week report of last June. Two women, now adults, who were minors at the time of the alleged abuse by Lanner, came forward to the authorities, who convened a grand jury that met over a period of several weeks.

The focus of attention in the Lanner case has been on the National Conference of Synagogue Youth and its parent group, the Orthodox Union, where the rabbi served in a leadership capacity for 30 years. But the indictments stem from his contact with the two women when they were students at the Hillel Yeshiva High School in Deal, N.J., where Lanner served as principal for 15 years, leaving amid a cloud of suspicion in 1997.

He is charged with engaging in sexual conduct with the students in his private office.

School officials did not return phone calls from The Jewish Week.

The first woman approached officials after reading the initial news report, and the second woman came forward as a result of the police investigation, Fliedner said.

The assistant prosecutor explained that aggravated criminal sexual conduct stems from the fact that the victims were under 16 at the time and that the rabbi had a supervisory or disciplinary role. Criminal sexual conduct means that force or coercion was used, and the endangerment charge applies to someone who has the legal duty of care for a minor and engages in sexual conduct.

The first woman, now 19, alleged that Lanner sexually abused her almost daily in his office at the yeshiva when she was a 14-year-old ninth-grader there in 1995 and 1996. She testified about this treatment before the grand jury, as did her mother, who asserted that she overheard Lanner on the phone with her daughter, telling her he loved her and wanted to marry her.

Lanner, who has refused past efforts by The Jewish Week to be interviewed, denied the allegations to a New York Times reporter last July. He was quoted as saying, "Emphatically, emphatically, emphatically it did not happen. This is a kid that came from a troubled background. I took her in and raised the tuition money for her to attend that school, and bus money, and this is the payback I receive?"

The time frame of the alleged misconduct with the second student took place between Sept. 1, 1992 and June 30, 1994, according to the indictments.

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