A South Williamsburg fishmonger turned himself over to police yesterday in connection with the assault on an outspoken critic of pedophiles in the neighborhood's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. According to the NYPD, 36-year-old Meilech Schnitzler, who runs Schnitzler’s Famous Fish in Williamsburg, voluntarily appeared for questioning at the 90th Precinct stationhouse, where he was arrested. He's accused of throwing a cup of bleach into the eyes of Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who runs a controversial website and hotline that identifies alleged child molesters.
Rosenberg immediately flushed out his eyes with water after the attack, which a doctor claims saved him from going blind. But Rosenberg says that the "pain was unimaginable," and he was treated for burns at Woodhull Hospital, where he identified his alleged assailant to police. According to the rabbi, he has known Schnitzler's father since childhood—and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters yesterday that the father was named on Rosenberg's website as a pedophile.
Schnitzler's father has never been charged with child abuse. But Rosenberg has been an outspoken critic of Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes's alleged failure to aggressively prosecute sex offenders in the tightly-knit Satmar Jewish community. According to a damning investigative report in the NY Times this year, powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbis have long discouraged their followers from reporting any instance of sexual abuse to the police without the rabbis' permission. And these influential leaders say Hynes—who has been reelected in large part due to Ultra-Orthodox Jews voting as a bloc according to their leaders' wishes—knows all about their policy, and he has not opposed it.
Today the Times reports that Rosenberg's attorney in the bleach matter is Abe George, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney who plans to run against Hynes for district attorney. In a letter to Hynes yesterday, George requested a special prosecutor for the case, arguing that Hynes’s history of being criticized by Rabbi Rosenberg constituted “a potential conflict of interest in this case.” Here's the letter:
Schnitzler has been charged with assault, menacing, criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon. The bizarre incident comes as tensions remain high in the community following the trial of Nechemya Weberman, a leader in Williamsburg's Satmar community who was convicted Monday of 59 counts of sexual abuse. Rosenberg was a fixture at the trial, and in an interview (below) with ABC 7 yesterday, Rosenberg said, "They thought they were going to blind me to stop this war. If I had to pick them up with a seeing-eye dog, I would pick them up." [Via the indispensable Failed Messiah.]