Closing arguments have finished and the trial is now in the verdict phase. See here for Jury deliberations & Verdict updates.
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February 5: The trial for Rabbi Osher Eisemann, the founder of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, also known as SCHI, will begin today.
Court sessions will be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and is expected to last for three weeks.
The charges will be heard and considered by fourteen jurors: 5 men and 9 women, with Middlesex County Judge Benjamin Bucca presiding.
Rabbi Eisemann is charged with unauthorized transactions of state resources, an action that could carry a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years prison if convicted, R”L.
The defense argues that the money referred to is not state money, as evidenced by the fact that the school spent the entire amount given to it by the state and millions of additional dollars that it raised on proper and state-approved uses for educating special needs students. Further, the transactions aka loans were completely legal, even if they were issued from state funds, since they were going to be repaid.
Rabbi Eisemann has pleaded not guilty.
A fund has been set up to help the beloved community member with his legal defense fees.
To donate, visit https://www.rayze.it/pidyonshvuyim/
All are asked to take a moment to Daven for אשר בן חנה פרומט.
We will be updating throughout the trial.
The prosecution: Deputy Attorney General John A. Nicodemo explains that SCHI is a state-funded special needs school. He argued that unauthorized transactions were issued with some of the state funds. Nicomedo admits the school children and their education were not affected by this…
Defense: R’ Eisemann’s attorney explained how the school was started, what it does, and how every child thrives. His attorney said “He grew SCHI. And as you will come to learn he loves every child at the school as if it was his own. In every SCHI student he sees his own son. Osher Eisemann is not guilty.” He went on to explain R’ Eisemann would never do anything to harm or jeopardize the school, it was literally his life.
They said they have a tip accountant that will explain all the funds in question including the amount needed to run the school and the fundraising operation.
3:00 PM update: State witness is testifying regarding the money, account transfers etc. …
Several witnesses for the state testified this morning that public funds were used for private business expenses, but defense lawyers countered that there is no proof that the money used was from public funds.
1:00 PM update: State claims R’ Eisemann used State money to invest in a clothing brand… defense says it was a loan, and was issued on condition the receiver keep Shabbos – forever.
4:00 PM update: A department of Education rep testified that it’s illegal to use public funds to pay off personal loans, or to invest etc even if you repay it later… Obviously, regarding the clothing company, the defense already said it was a loan not a payment.. but there were other loans and payments involved…. even if it was repaid with no harm done, it still may be illegal. The defense will make the case that the law only forbids accepting a loan; issuing one is not part of the law.
State witness testified, there was some cross examination. The prosecution mostly had their time.
The trial will resume on Tuesday. Will will update then.
Tuesday: Due to the inclement weather & State of Emergency declared, the trial will resume tomorrow. Check back for updates.
Thursday: 12 p.m. The prosecution continued testifying, and just completed their testimony…
2:55 p.m. When the prosecution completed their testimony, the defense said there was no evidence presented for them to defend and filed a motion to dismiss. The judge then considered the request (something extremely rare for a judge to do) – which is when we issued our Tehillim call – but ultimately denied the motion, unfortunately.
The Judge ruled that the case will continue. The Defense began testifying but it seems the prosecution has a bit of a shaky case.
6:30 p.m. The defence began today, and will resume next week on Tuesday. One of the defense witnesses to take the stand will be forensic accountant Ely Leshkowitz, who will testify as an expert witness. The defense may be done by mid-next week, whereupon it will be given over to the jury for deliberation.
Remember to check back with GreaterLakewood.com for continuous updates.
The trial is held Tuesdays through Thursdays.
Tuesday: State witnesses conceded that R’ Eisemann’s transactions were legal. Specifically, state witness Elise Sadler-Williams, who helped write the state regulations that schools must follow because it receives public tuition money, conceded with the defense that issuing a loan with those funds is 100% legal and not in violation of the code.
A paper was outside the Beis Medrash in BMG today for people to take upon themselves ‘shmiras sedorim’ as a zechus. And for those who find it hard, to accept to learn the first half hour straight ‘retzufos’ without any stopping – it should be a zechus
Wednesday: The defense continued this morning and presented Lakewood public schools Superintendent Laura Winters as well as a special ed teacher who works for the Lakewood school district. There were 2 others as well who shared one theme.
They all testified that student’s needs have always been taken care of by the school and they always received the best education possible.
Following their testimony, the defense rested their case.
Both sides are expected to present their closing arguments on Thursday before the jury begins deliberations, followed by the verdict.
Note: The state had previously brought 2 witnesses for the prosecution, both had different interpretations of the law and disagreed on what exactly the law is regarding use if State funds. At one point the defense literally shut down a State Witness regarding the law and the Witness agreed it may not be explicit in ‘writing.’
Additionally, the Judge Wednesday question why the prosecution is seeking up to 2 decades in prison and not a monetary retribution and said he finds it ‘troubling’. He voiced concerns an appeals court may overturn a conviction.
Readers Note: A reader tells us that he was a Vort last night where the Kallah worked at SCHI for a number of years. Everyone was stunned when R’ Eisemann walked in to wish the Kallah’s family a Mazel Tov. ”You have a person – in middle of a trial – with a future that is uncertain… who has every reason NOT to come, yet he shows up for the SCHI family”. The reader concluded “the olim was blown away that he came, smiled and seemed to have no worry in the world.”
All are asked to continue to Daven for אשר בן חנה פרומט.
There will be an atzeres tefilla in BMG tonight (in Ateres Ester, that’s in the basement of the Hertzka building, the new building on 7th st across from the main building). Tehillim will be recited for 15 minutes from 10:30-10:45, followed by divrei hisoraros vichizuk from Rav Yitzchak Sorotzkin shlita.
Thursday: The Judge began by going over with the attorneys what questions will be included in those posed to the jury. As of 10 a.m., the jury was not yet in the room.
While presenting their closing arguments, the defense pleaded with the jury to set aside any biases, quoting the late Nelson Mandela who famously said “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.”
Defense lawyer James Mahon also sought to prove Rabbi Eisemann’s innocence by making the point that his salary was over $100,000 LESS than the state maximum, which doesn’t sound like someone looking to enrich themselves.
Concluding his remarks, Mahon called on the jury to “do your duty and acquit this innocent defendant.”
Mahon was followed by Rabbi Eisemann’s personal attorney, Lee Vartan.
Vartan began by summing up the last two weeks and telling juries to pay attention to “two critical pieces of evidence.”
The two witnesses he was referencing were detectives Thomas Page and William Fredrick. During the trial, Page testified that if there was enough money from private donations, then there was no crime.
(Interestingly, the lead detective, William Frederick could not even say how much money went through the bank account he was investigating)
Many SCHI parents were present in an overwhelming display of support.
The cornerstone of the prosecution’s case is rooted in a mistaken QuickBooks line, which shows that more money went from the school to the foundation than visa versa. Based on that alone, the prosecution made their case that district money which was allocated for the school was not used for the school but rather transferred to the foundation. However, the audit shows otherwise – that more money went from the foundation to the school. There are specific details in what money went where but the defense proved more money was spent on the school than was received from the Government. There was a loan that was sent from the school account which the prosecution said was an investment while the defense concedes there was a loan, they maintain that its OK under the law.
Earlier today, defense attorney Lee blasted the detectives and state prosecutors over how they looked over the audit. He said “if you see a conflicting statement between the quickbooks and the audit, how can you not pick up the phone and ask the district (whom the prosecutor claims is the VICTIM in this case) or call up the accounting offices.”
“In fact, the prosecutors ‘victim’ was a witness for the defense!”GL reporting a Fact
The prosecution claims the district is the victim since monies given to the Township, were misused. However, the prosecutors didn’t call up anyone. Not the District not even the superintendent. In fact, the district (the prosecutors ‘victim’) was a witness for the defense!
Lee also said that the reason prosecutors failed to delve deeper to try to find out and explain the discrepancy is obvious, “because they knew the answer but didn’t want to hear it. They just wanted a case and pounced.”
Lee reiterated many times today in the closing arguments:
“this case is not an investigation in search of the truth, this is an investigation in search of a crime”Defense Attorney Lee
The court has a Lunch break till 1:30 we will resume right after.
1:30 Tehillim is BMG right now for R’ Eisemann.
R’ Eisemann’s personal attorney Lee is speaking. He told the jury ‘if you find that R’ Eisemann acted in good faith, you must acquit him (by law)’. He added ‘even if you believe everything the State says, R’ Eisemann still did nothing wrong – you are allowed to issue a loan’.
People in the courtroom are saying Tehillim.
2:15 Lee is going through every minute detail of the questionable transactions, explaining how they are all legal. The defense is preempting any claim the prosecution may raise once they take the stand.
Lee says “this is their whole megilah!” referring to the prosecutors chart with missing critical info.
“this is their whole megilah!”Defense Attorney Lee
2:30 Attorney Lee is still presenting his closing arguments. He is going through each transaction & debunking any claim the prosecution may make.
2:41 Lee says “I am more than happy to do their work for them (work that the detectives should have done if they were getting to the bottom of an investigation)…and pulled out a large chart – identical to the detectives – without the mistakes in it. The courtroom laughed as Lee presented the chart. The chart shows all transactions were 100% legal & private dollars not State….
2:45 Lee turned to R’ Eisemann & said “Thank you Osher Eisemann for building what you built” and showed a huge slide-show of the school and the massive state of the art complex which began in a small store front ectc. Everyone in the room is captivated.
2:50 Lee turns to the Jury & says “I am sure you are wondering why they (prosecution) are calling him (R Eisemann) a thief if the victim (Township) said he never stole from them & even called him a ‘secular saint’
2:55 Lee was very emotional in his final remarks talking about the school and all the good that goes on there.
Defence Attorneys Lee’s last and final line to the jury was: “And now, I relieve the heavy burden that I have defending someone who I love and I know he is absolutely innocent. I give that burden to you. And I implore you, I beg of you, return him to his school, return him to where he belongs, because there are so many other students in the community and outside the community who need Osher Eisemann. Osher Eisemann is the best of every one of us. And I pass the burden to you knowing that you will do what is right, and just, and fair. Thanks.”
There will be a 10 Minute break & then the Prosecutor will have closing statements.
The crowd is very emotional. People noted during the recess “the feeling in the room (during the defence’s closing arguments) felt like what we read in the megilla when Esther was pleading for her life before Achosveirosh”.
3:03 The Judge addressed the crowd and warns spectators to not ‘interact’ with the prosecutors after a person was overheard telling one of the prosecutors what a good school SCHI is.
3:05 The Prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson just began his closing remarks. He said the States job is to prosecute crimes regardless if they are done by good people…He agrees that SCHI is a ‘magnificent school, beyond question’.
We will give a general recap – as it goes – but we will not update the prosecution minute by minute.
People are saying Tehillim in the courtroom.
3:30 Observation: The prosecutor is hardly making eye contact with the 12 Jurors (2 were dismissed earlier) The Defense attorney was ‘eye-to eye’ with them the whole time.
3:50 The Prosecutor is getting a little petty ‘If I walk into your house and take your TV off the wall and then change my mind and bring it back to you – that’s still a theft’.
4:20 The prosecutor is still going….nothing newsworthy – he is making ‘diyukim’ to attempt to determine intent. No hard evidence at all.
4:30 The Prosecutor has concluded his closing statement. That is it for the day.
The Jury will begin deliberations tomorrow. For updates on jury deliberations and the final verdict, see here.