In 2015, the FBI arrested and charged New Jersey- based therapist Elliot Halberstam with three counts of sexual enticement and exploitation of a minor and receipt of child pornography. The arrest was widely reported at the time.
The charges alleged that Halberstam had groomed one of his clients, then a 16 year old boy, who he had been seeing since 2011. He manipulated the boy who had hopes of becoming a model, and created a fake email address to convince the boy that he was in fact a lawyer who would help him break into the modeling industry. He coerced the boy to engage in sexually explicit behaviors with him, which he sometimes filmed in a hotel room he had rented. He also coerced the victim to send him pornographic images and videos from the victim.
In July 2018, Halberstam pled guilty to coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity.
On February 28, 2019, Halberstam was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Halberstam addressed the court, asking for leniency and noting his own victimisation and the pain that a lengthy sentence would bring his family.
The Judge responded with a statement to Halberstam that whatever pain he may suffer over the next 13 years while serving his sentence, the worst of it will not begin to compare to the suffering that the victim has endured as a result of the abuse.
Meyer Seewald, founder and director of Jewish Community Watch, spoke at the hearing. He stated that throughout all of his years working with victims, he has seen that while child sexual abuse in the community is rampant, only one in countless victims manages to get to this point- standing in court facing their abuser. He described the immense pressure that victims face to keep their abuse quiet, and their disbelief that justice will ever be attainable. He addressed the judge, asking him to see his role in sending a message to not only the victim and abuser in the room, but to all the victims and abusers everywhere, to make sure that they know that justice is worth fighting for.
What follows is an impact statement presented in court by the victim’s mother, on February 28, 2019
“I stand here before you with utmost respect for The Honorable Judge Carter, Mr. Beaty, Ivy, Wendy, JCW supporters and survivors of sexual abuse, and our godsend, Agent Aaron Spivack.
“I’ve been contemplating for a while on which horrifying aspect of this nightmare I should focus on during the limited time I have to speak to you here today. The truth is that hours, days, weeks and months wouldn’t be enough for me to express the trauma, and horror that my son, my family, my marriage and my own mental health have suffered. It’s been four years of struggling with PTSD, an eating disorder, dysfunction, trauma, depression and suicidal ideation. I keep asking myself HOW? How could it be that I spent my life “bubble wrapping” my most precious commodities, my children, and still someone was able to penetrate so deep?
“The defense submitted a 36 page report trying to absolve my son’s molester from taking responsibility for his heinous acts.
“He knew exactly what he was doing as he planned, groomed and manipulated my son, myself, and my family.
“He was NOT overtaken by his “childhood traumas,” his responsibility to religion, nor from fear of stigma. He knew exactly what he wanted and played everyone around him until he got it.
“He had set forth a goal, despite taking an oath to be a responsible, professional, mental health therapist. One who was supposed to be a trusting figure. Where children sought his help at their most vulnerable moments. It was his duty to guide clients into the light, not the abyss of hell. Instead of helping innocent children, he used his power of authority to fulfill his own filthy desires.
“Humans have the right to chose. To make a decision between right and wrong. To control their evil inclinations. And to GET HELP when they are overwhelmed by immoral desires.
“As a therapist and the director of a mental health agency, and even as a prisoner, according to the defense’s reports, my son’s molestor appears to be very competent in knowing how to direct people with mental health issues to seek professional help. He should have directed himself. He knew very well that his actions were immoral, unjust and detrimentally harmful to an innocent, developing boy. As a social worker, he used to give classes about the harmful effects of child sexual abuse to teachers, camp counselors, Rabbis and community leaders. Knowing this, the defendant could have chosen to get professional help, but instead, he focused all his energy on grooming, lying and deceiving.
“My son is a hero. A survivor.
“My husband is a man of outstanding courage.
“Me? My heart is broken, there’s a large part that will never properly heal. We, the three of us, we too, had a choice. We could have shoved this whole ordeal under the rug and let the perpetrator continue satisfying his nasty desires by preying on innocent boys. But we would NOT accept that. We would not allow for even one more life to be jeopardized.
“We chose to do the right thing.
“Even after experiencing several failed paths, we did not give up.
“It has been a very very long, painful road for us in reaching this very moment. The moment where you, Judge Carter, have the power to allow my son to feel justified, dignified, respected, and as he is supposed to feel, that he is a true hero. It is believed that “A man who saves just one life, it is as though he has saved the world.”
“Please, today, my son is deserving of fair justice for saving the world.”