What? ‘Victim ordered to pay the accused’
An outlandish judgment by a California judge that ordered a rabbi to pay a woman suspected of vandalizing a synagogue has been reversed.
Word comes from officials with First Liberty Institute that a different judge has reversed the decision that would have penalized the rabbi $6,000 for reporting to police the vandalism, and those he suspected.
“Anyone should be able to make a good faith report of a crime to police without being punished,” First Liberty said.
“It is undeniable that the synagogue was vandalized. Video and photographs show a group of masked vandals damaging curtains, tarp, fences, and electronics. The rabbi simply made a police report about the crime. But one of the accused vandals who was not caught on camera sued him for reporting her to the police,” the organization reported.
It was Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Netanel Louie who was involved in the case, for which he originally was ordered to pay.
“The judge’s decision is just and protects Rabbi Louie from being penalized for simply reporting a crime that he witnessed,” said Stephanie Taub, senior counsel to First Liberty. “The rabbi made a good faith report to police about a crime he saw taking place on his property. We are grateful for this decision. We will continue to assist Rabbi Louie as police investigate the most recent vandalism against his synagogue.”
The first attack on the Hebrew Discovery Center synagogue happened in October 2016.
“The vandals trespassed, stole electronics, and caused thousands of dollars in damage to the property. The rabbi witnessed the vandalism, catching some of the disturbance on video, and reported the incident to the police,” First Liberty reported.
But the case against one of those charged eventually was dismissed by authorities who said they didn’t have enough proof.
She then brought the case against Louie.
Just days after that decision, against the rabbi, was overturned, the synagogue was vandalized again, First Liberty confirmed.
“During the night of Saturday, July 13, 2019, vandals threw paint and bricks at the synagogue. Fortunately, no one was injured. Police are investigating as a potential hate crime,” the organization reported.
The penalty against the rabbi had been announced by Judge Richard Walmark, even though “according to California law, making a police report is generally protected activity because the state wants to encourage people to freely communicate with law enforcement.”
“Even if the person making a police report was mistaken about what he or she saw, that is not enough to sue. Only people who maliciously lie to the police can be brought to court based on their communication with law enforcement. This is a very high standard, and it was not met here,” First Liberty said.
The suspect had, in fact been caught at the scene of the original vandalism, the report said.
But Walmark’s decision was overturned by Judge Michael Harwin, who heard the appeal.