By: Allan M. Siegel
In a recent opinion by a three-judge panel, the D.C. Court of Appeals unanimously
affirmed Rabbi Barry Freundel’s criminal conviction for secretly
videotaping women who were partially or totally undressed during a religious
bathing ritual. D.C. law generally prohibits imposing multiple sentences
for a single offense. Freundel’s lawyer argued that Freundel’s
voyeurism stemmed from a single course of conduct and that therefore,
Freundel should only be sentenced for one voyeurism charge. The court
was unpersuaded and upheld Freundel’s 6.5 year sentence for 52 counts
Each count of voyeurism carries up to one year in prison. The trial judge
sentenced Freundel to 45 days imprisonment on each count, which totals
to about 6.5 years.
Freundel was the rabbi of Kesher Israel Synagogue and in charge of the National
Capital Mikvah when he was arrested in 2014 for secretly videotaping naked
women who were taking part in a bathing ritual. In pleading guilty, Freundel
acknowledged that he placed video-recording devices inside a showering
and changing room of a facility used for a religious bathing ritual known
as a mikvah. Recording devices were found by police hidden in a radio,
a tabletop fan, and a tissue-box holder.
The Court of Appeals noted that a defendant may receive multiple punishments
for separate acts that violate the same statute. Freundel argued that
his sentence violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment,
which holds that no person may be punished twice for the same offense.
The Court of Appeals rejected Freundel’s argument that once a defendant
unlawfully records one victim, all future recordings of different victims
with different recording devices in different locations would not be separately
punishable so long as the defendant had a “single voyeuristic purpose.”
In an opinion by Associate Judge Roy McLeese, the Court found Freundel’s
argument contrary to reason and public policy, noting that if Freundel’s
viewpoint on the law were accepted, voyeurs would not be incentivized
to cease recording future victims after they recorded the first victim.
Freundel also unsuccessfully argued that D.C.’s voyeurism statute
criminalized a “course of conduct” rather than separate offenses
against individual victims. He made other arguments based on statutory
history, statutory construction, and case law that were similarly dismissed
by the court.
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C. is currently pursuing a
class action on behalf of women who were victimized by Freundel’s
actions. Our team of seasoned litigators pursue aggressive, creative case
strategies to hold wrongdoers accountable and achieve justice for our clients.