WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A rabbi who admitted to secretly videotaping dozens of women in a Jewish ritual bath was sentenced to six and a half years Friday.
Rabbi Bernard "Barry" Freundel, 63, pleaded guilty to 52 voyeurism charges in February stemming from a series of incidents between 2009 and 2014. Prosecutors had asked that Freundel be sent to prison for at least 17 years. Freundel's lawyer asked that his client only do community service. A judge instead sentenced Freundel to 45 days in prison for each of the 52 victims, or six and a half years, calling his actions "a classic abuse of power and violation of trust."
More than a dozen female victims testified to the judge at the sentencing. Some addressed Freundel specifically. The former rabbi sat with his head in his hands, facing downward, during much of it.
Most of Freundel's female victims broke down in tears or had cracking voices during the emotional testimonies. Several women said he took advantage of his power by asking them to perform administrative tasks in his home during their conversion to Judaism, and was either condescending or made remarks that made them uncomfortable.
One woman said she fell into a deep depression and used "substances" to deal with finding out she was videotaped. Another woman said Freundel trolled for more females to convert, and presumably videotape, at her wedding. That victim stated she felt he turned his female congregants into "unwitting porn stars."
One said when she went to Freundel to grieve about her grandmother's death, he suggested she use the Mikvah to cleanse, thereby setting herself up to be videotaped.
One victim who directed her gaze at Freundel specifically asked, "how could you do this?" She also stated, "I was violated. My rabbi is a pervert" and said that Freundel "turned my life upside down." Another victim said Freundel shook her dad's hand at her wedding, after he videotaped her.
A representative for The National Capital Mikvah spoke and requested restitution for the $2,500 it cost them to hire a security team to sweep the entire building for additional recording devices, to put their clients at ease. Other victims said they had to take time off from work and had to seek therapy.
Many victims said being associated with Freundel made people in their community doubt their conversion to Judaism was complete, leading to extra anxiety.
Freundel's attorney, Jeffrey Harris, spoke on his client's behalf and said that the good his client has done in his lifetime had outweighed the bad. Several people then testified on Freundel's behalf, saying the former rabbi was remorseful and had entered intensive therapy. One called him an exceptional leader.
When Freundel spoke, he directed his statement at the judge, "I'm sorry, truly sorry. I apologize to the depths of my being to the victims. I'm horrified, I'm disgusted by how I acted."
He also said that he is in anguish and that every day he wakes up in tears. He went on to explain that he is in intensive therapy. He blamed his impulses on "childhood degradation that has haunted my life." He also said that he cannot imagine ever giving into those impulses again.
After sentencing, several victims told WUSA9 they felt Freundel didn't seem sincere in his apology.
Between early early 2009 and October 2014, police say Freundel installed and maintained an electronic recording device inside a clock radio in a changing/showering rooms at The National Capital Mikvah in Northwest, D.C.
Freundel was arrested on Oct. 14, 2014 after an individual associated with the Mikvah turned over the radio to police.
Harris said his client plans to appeal.