A jury acquitted five of six Orthodox Jews charged in a wild fracas – but found one guilty Wednesday of a simple misdemeanor. All were facing as much as 15 years each on gang assault charges when their trial began five weeks ago.
The brouhaha erupted inside a yeshiva when students from two different sects began battling over a bed in the dorm room. The sects have had a long-running argument over who they believe is the true messiah.
Brooklyn jurors found one member of the local Shomrim guard group guilty of a single misdemeanor.
“It was all a big waste of time,” said Nechemia Slatter, one of the so-called “Shomrim six” acquitted in the Dec. 29, 2007 dustup.
“It’s the district attorney’s money,” said lawyer Joyce David, whose client, Chaim Hershkop, was also acquitted. “A lot of resources for nothing.”
Many of the charges, including felony gang assault, were dismissed by Justice Albert Tomei before jurors began deliberating. Jurors took five hours to find all but Godi Hershkop not guilty.
The case, which began when two groups in an Eastern Parkway yeshiva began fighting, revealed divides in the community over whether the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson is the messiah.
It also put Shomrim, criticized by some as too aggressive, on trial. All six vowed to stay with the group.
Hershkop, 37, faces as much as a year in prison but defense lawyer Israel Fried, noting that his client will probably lose school bus driver job from the conviction, said he’ll probably not get any jail.
“Community service?” Fried asked, “He’s already doing community service: he’s Shomrim.”
Shomrim Stand Trial Today