By Eric Fingerhut
Washington Jewish Week - December 6, 2006
The lawyer for the rabbi caught in a hidden camera sting of online sexual predators said Tuesday that he and his client are still discussing whether to appeal his conviction on sex crime charges.
A notice of an appeal must be filed within 10 days of last Friday's sentencing of David Kaye, in which Alexandria U.S. Court Judge James Cacheris sent the Rockville rabbi to prison for 78 months.
Kaye was found guilty in September of "coercion and enticement" and travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor. Those charges were brought after Kaye was featured in a broadcast of the Dateline NBC "To Catch a Predator" series.
Kaye lawyer Peter Greenspun said he was pleased with the sentence considering that the government had originally asked for a term of 121 months. But, the lawyer said, "that doesn't mean it's not a difficult and harsh ... sentence."
Federal sentences are determined by a system that assigns a certain number of points for a specific crime and and then adds or subtracts points based on various enhancements and reductions.
Prosecutors asked for three enhancements, but the judge only accepted one, for obstruction of justice. Cacheris ruled that Kaye had commited perjury by testifying that he had gone to the house in Herndon expecting to meet with a young adult. For that reason, the judge also rejected the defense request for a sentence reduction based on his acceptance of responsibility for the crimes.
Kaye testified at trial in August that he believed his chat partner had been lying about being 13 years old and was engaged in a "role play."
In fact, his chat partner was an adult and a member of an organization called Perverted Justice, a controversial group whose volunteers pose as children online in order to expose potential Internet predators and then turn over chat logs and other information it gathers to the police.
The group was working with Dateline NBC, and Kaye was confronted on camera by a Dateline reporter when he arrived at the Herndon house.
Kaye, who served for more than three years as vice president of program at the Rockville-based teen educational group Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, resigned from that post just days before the Dateline segment first aired. Until 2001, he had been a rabbi at Potomac's Congregation Har Shalom for 16 years.
His time in prison is likely to last about five more years. His sentence includes the more than six months he has already served since his May indictment and can be shortened by 15 percent with good behavior.
Once he serves his time, though, he faces an additional 10 years of supervised release. He will be required to register as a sex offender and banned from accessing the Internet and being alone with children under the age of 18 without the prior approval of a parole officer, among other conditions.
Cacheris also recommended that Kaye be admitted into the Sex Offender Treatment Program at the federal prison in Butner, N.C., although he said that Kaye may have to wait a while. The program is currently full.
In congressional testimony in September, Andres Hernandez, director of that program, said that therapy at Butner includes about 15 hours of treatment activities per week that "help offenders manage their sexual deviance in an effort to reduce sexual recidivism" by teaching "effective self-control skills."
Charles Onley, a research associate at the Silver Spring-based Center for Sex Offender Management, said that he wasn't familiar with the specifics of Butner's program. But, he said that such treatments often teach offenders to identify "triggers" for their behavior and make them much better prepared for re-entry into society.
In his statement to the judge at Friday's hearing, an emotional Kaye acknowledged his father and others family members in the courtroom and asked the media ‹ specifically citing Washington Jewish Week by name ‹ to "keep this private."
He then said that the Dateline incident was "my cry out for help," and while it may be a cliche, "sometimes cliches are true." (Major media outlets have already reported details of Kaye's statement.)
Reactions to Kaye's sentence were mixed. Vicki Polin, executive director of the Awareness Center, which tracks sexual abuse in the Jewish community, said she thought Kaye received a "fair sentence," considering that there was no evidence presented in court that he had contact with a child.
Congregation Shaare Tefila's Rabbi Jonah Layman sees the sentence as a "positive thing for him and his family," given it is "a lot less that he could have gotten."
"I hope that this can begin the process of David's healing and his family's healing," said the Silver Spring rabbi, a friend of the Kaye family.
Agudas Achim Congregation's Rabbi Jack Moline, a longtime friend of Kaye's, said he was less concerned with the sentence than with the vigilante methods used to catch him.
"I can't defend what he did. I don't think that's the issue," said the Alexandria rabbi. "Whether or not he should have been doing [it] ... the man was convicted by NBC," which was "interested in the most sensational story."
"It's not about justice, it's about ratings," and "it's a terrible way for justice to be served," he added.
Moline noted that NBC continues to rerun the video of the Kaye sting and the video can be viewed on the program's Web site.
"Now that he's convicted and sentenced, what is the purpose of ... keeping it up on the Web site?" he said.
Dateline did not respond to a message requesting comment. Meanwhile, the show has scheduled a program with "updates" on those caught in its "To Catch a Predator" series for this Saturday night.