Three Jerusalem District Court Judges on Thursday sentenced a cult leader with six wives and dozens of children to 26 years in prison on 18 counts of sexual offenses, including rape, sodomy, indecent sexual acts, violence, imprisonment in slave-like conditions and abuse of women and children. The court also ordered the man, identified only as D., to provide his victims with compensation of 100,000 shekels each.
The judges also sentenced D.'s assistant to six years in prison, after he was convicted on three charges involving indecent acts and rape, because he participated in the acts of punishing the victims. However, the judges said the assistant never made his own decisions and essentially stood at the beck and call of D. and his fanatical whims.
D., 58, whose name is subject to a court-issued gag-order, is a member of the Breslov ultra-Orthodox sect and saw himself as the successor to one of the sect's leaders. He had six wives and 17 children and is the biological father of some of them. D. lived with all of them at the same time, in secluded apartments in Jerusalem, Tiberias and Tel Aviv.
The court found that D. completely controlled the lives of his wives and children, whom he sent to beg for money and to disseminate his religious doctrine from morning to night, all while imposing a brutal regime of punishments based on his unpredictable whims. According to the conviction, he erased their personalities and warped their minds. Throughout the years his wives tried, according to his demands, to find more "candidates" to join the "family," often as a way to ease a punishment against one of them.
D. presided over a humiliating system of punishment that he referred to as "judgment," during which he would punish his wives and children for "impermissible thoughts" by raping them or perpetrating other sexual offenses against them, electrocuting them with a stun gun, whipping them with an electric cable, imprisoning them nude in utility closets, forcibly separating the women from their children and starving them. He ordered one of his wives to dress like a prostitute and stand in the street next to prostitutes. He also engaged in group sex, in which one of his step-daughters took part.
In their final ruling, the judges emphasized that "the accused manipulatively and grotesquely exploited the principles of loyalty and his lofty stature in the household, the trust put in him and the fear he aroused, in order to substantiate his influence and control over the family members. The accused caused his wives to believe that their behavior and thoughts were hurtful not only to him but also to the salvation of Israel, and in accordance with this he caused them to have deep feelings of guilt and self-loathing which they could only atone for by confessing before him and through suitable punishment which he himself determined and oversaw."
Five of the six wives, including those who were victims of his crimes, remain faithful to him, and even venerate him, to which they testified during the sentencing hearings. When the ruling was read out in court, the five wives confronted the sixth wife, who had testified against him.