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Rubin appealed and this time persuaded five community members to file affidavits or amicus briefs.
"It was public knowledge since about 1990, when it came to my personal attention, that Martin Wolmark together with Mendel Epstein engage underworld thugs to assist them in executing coerced gets," wrote Rabbi Tzvi Dov Abraman.
Rabbi Abraham Rapaport wrote that Wolmark "wants to make his name in the Jewish community, and was under the erroneous impression that lynching recalcitrant husbands would establish him as a leading rabbi."
Amsel stated in a sworn affidavit that the fire at Director's house had made him afraid to testify. (The cause of the blaze remained a mystery, Director told the court.) Amsel asserted he'd heard that potential witnesses were receiving threatening phone calls. "I therefore decided that it was not worth it for me to compromise my life and safety," he wrote.
Markowitz felt similar fears. "It was my intention to testify but subsequently I refused to cooperate with Rabbi Rubin, particularly after hearing Yaakov Goldstein reveal how ordinary and routine it is for him and his goons to abduct and torture people with stun guns," he wrote. (Director and Rapaport have since died. Calls to phone numbers listed under Abraman's and Markowitz's names went unanswered.)
On the grounds that the appeal targeted the rabbis accused of ordering the beatings, not the men who executed the assault, the Kings County Supreme Court dismissed the case in 2000. "No triable issues of fact exist," Judge William Garry ruled.
The criminal case seemed more promising. In early 1998, Rubin took his story public, agreeing to an interview with Newsday's Dan Morrison.
"While no one has ever been prosecuted for a get-related attack in New York City, that may soon change," Morrison wrote. Detective Robert Rodenburg of the NYPD's 66th Precinct said the police work had gone well. "The investigators spent an awful lot of time doing this case and it was really nitpicked to do it right," he told Morrison. "It was done as well as any homicide case could be done. Just like not every homicide case gets solved, will this case get solved? That's up to the D.A.'s Office."
Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione filed an affidavit in Rubin's civil case, stating, "I have been investigating the case involving Abraham Rubin and his claims concerning criminal activity for several months. . . . I have asked for, and received from Abraham Rubin a number of documents, tape recordings, and other information concerning his allegations. . . . Mr. Rubin has been cooperating with my office."
But Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes dropped the case.
In response to questions from the Voice, Hynes's office declined to comment. Instead, spokeswoman Mia Goldberg emailed a short statement: "One person made allegations against Rabbi Epstein. Because that person was unable to identify any of his assailants, we were unable to bring a case against him."
Hynes, who has held his seat since 1990, failed to win a seventh term in November's election. In recent years he has faced accusations that he went easy on Orthodox Jewish leaders accused of child sexual abuse in order to fortify his political ties with the community.
That wouldn't have come as a shock to Amsel. In July 1997, eight months after Rubin's kidnapping, he wrote a letter to a detective in the 66th Precinct describing what he knew about the crime. "It is not expected that these criminals will ever be brought to justice, since the D.A.'s office is known to be a political movement," he wrote.
In their statements to the court, Amsel, Director, and Markowitz suggested that the criminal investigation didn't appear to worry Epstein. In fact, they alleged, he'd orchestrated two more kidnappings: Tobias Horowitz in August 1997 and Zalmen Livshitz in March 1998. (The Voice was unable to locate either man.)
On August 14, 2013, Mendel Epstein met with a woman at his house in Ocean County, New Jersey. She told him she was in need of his services.
She'd contacted Epstein through Wolmark, who'd advised her that "there's another way" to pull a get from a recalcitrant husband: "You need special rabbis who are going to take this thing and see it through to the end. . . . Getting a guy like Mendel Epstein who's a hired hand," he said, according to a federal indictment filed in October. Wolmark set up a conference call with Epstein, and the August 14 meeting was scheduled. The woman said she'd bring along her brother.
"This is an expensive thing to do," Epstein said to the two visitors. "Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get."
The woman's brother asked about Epstein's effectiveness.
"Wait a minute here," Epstein said. "I guarantee you that if you're in the van, you'd give a get to your wife. You probably love your wife, but you'd give a get when they finish with you.
"Hopefully, there won't even be a mark on him," he added.
"You can leave a mark." The brother chuckled.
"No, no, no, no," said Epstein. "We prefer not to leave a mark. Because then when you do, they do go to the police, the police look at the guy. . . . And basically the reaction of the police is, if the guy does not have a mark on him, then, 'Is there some Jewish crazy affair here?' They don't get involved."