Why Greer Remains Free, & Victim Unpaid

Christopher Peak PhotoNearly two years after a federal jury found that Rabbi Daniel Greer had inflicted $15 million in emotional damages by allegedly molesting a former student, and 18 months after police arrested him for alleged sexual crimes, he hasn’t paid up more than a couple thousand bucks or served any time behind bars.

Why not? Though the Constitution guarantees “a speedy and public trial” to anyone accused of a crime, the accusers themselves aren’t entitled to the same right. More often, the justice system moves slowly, especially whenever a defendant can post bail and retain a top attorney to argue their side.

That’s what’s happening here, as both a criminal trial and court efforts to recoup damages trudge on slowly.

Based on an examination of briefs from six ongoing legal proceedings involving Greer and conversations with legal experts, some explanations emerge: It’s difficult to prove decade-old allegations of sexual abuse. And the particulars of Greer’s case might be slowing things down even further.

What are the accusations?

In mid-2016, Eliyahu Mirlis, a former student at the Yeshiva of New Haven, told New Haven cops that Greer repeatedly sexually assaulted him from September 2002 to June 2005. The abuse began when he was about 14 years old.

Mirlis told detectives that he was sexually assaulted so often that the encounters started to blur together. He recalled, once, that Greer lay naked on top of him in the “69” position; on another occasion, he added, Greer would “get in the doggy position,” hand the teen KY Jelly lube and be penetrated anally. Mirlis told Greer he “didn’t like it” when he was penetrated, but that he also allegedly continued anyway. Mirlis told detectives they didn’t wear condoms.

In July 2017, two months after jurors sided with Mirlis in the civil trial, cops charged Greer with second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. They felt they had enough evidence after Mirlis’s description of a scar by Greer’s testicles — one that the rabbi denied having during the civil trial — matched pictures that detectives were able to take through a search warrant.

After turning himself in, the rabbi immediately posted $100,000 in bond, and his lawyer entered a pro forma not guilty plea.

Where does the case stand now?

The criminal case is now in the pre-trial phase. It has been called on the docket 17 times so far, as the parties have tried to dig up all the evidence that might be relevant to allegations.

In August 2017, the prosecution said it would need notice of any alibis that Greer planned to offer to explain away the specific dates that Mirlis claimed the rabbi had sexually assaulted him.

Meanwhile, Willie Dow, a legendary local defense attorney, argued he’s entitled to any “exculpatory evidence” that could clear Greer, his client. In January 2018, Dow initially said that might include the timeline of Mirlis’s court filings, inconsistent statements, and continued interaction with the rabbi after the alleged abuse.

Just in the last two months, Dow filed other motions saying he believed he still isn’t getting the full picture on Mirlis.

He claimed that Mirlis might have been hospitalized recently for mental-health treatment and that Mirlis might have participated in “an international, multi-million dollar conspiracy” to traffic “misbranded prescription drugs and devices,” smuggled in from Turkey, Canada and other foreign countries, with his brother, Reuven Mirlis, who pleaded guilty to federal crimes in 2015.

Mirlis’s lawyer Antonio Ponvert and a supervising state’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment. Dow declined to comment.

How usual are these delays?

When a defendant isn’t in lockup, it’s quite common for a case to drag on, experts said.

“If a person is incarcerated, there’s an awful lot of pressure to spur the state on. Every day in jail is either wasted time or banked against the future resolution of the case. But if the person’s out, it shifts,” explained Todd Fernow, a University of Connecticut School of Law professor who leads a student clinic on criminal law. “The state has the power generally to accelerate the prosecution of the case. If nobody’s complaining at the delay, there isn’t a speedy trial violation.”

An added complexity in Greer’s case is that the civil trial preceded the criminal trial. Usually they go the other way around, Fernow said, with victims collecting a financial penalty after a criminal conviction.

“That can really complicate the preliminary process quite a bit,” Fernow said. Mostly, that’s because civil cases uncover a lot more information. Witnesses are routinely deposed, then questioned again on the stand. Discovery can also turn up banking and tax records. The attorneys will want to get a hold of all those files and dig in.

“There’s a wealth of collateral evidence that they can use,” Fernow said. “You can’t get any of that in a criminal case. Some prosecutors won’t even give copies of the police reports. The only thing required by the U.S. Constitution is exculpatory evidence, like a recantation. But anything in a gray area, they may or may not turn over.”

How will evidence play out in criminal court?

Many of the facts will be the same. But not all of the evidence from the civil trial will be admissible, nor will it necessarily sway the jury.

“The criminal case is not going to look like the civil,” Fernow said. “There might be legal wrangling about what’s admissible, and they may be trying to locate people.”

During the civil trial, Greer selectively invoked the Fifth Amendment. When Ponvert asked Greer if he’d sexually assaulted Mirlis in his house, at seven rental properties, and at a Branford motel, Greer stayed quiet. But when Ponvert asked Greer if he’d forced Mirlis to have sex with him in the woods in Hamden, Greer denied it.

The civil jury was allowed to read into Greer’s non-answers. A criminal jury will not be allowed to hold it against him.

The civil trial also featured a videotaped deposition by another former student who claimed Greer sexually abused him too, and offered extensive details. That student dodged subpoenas and never showed up in court. The civil jury was allowed to watch his pre-recorded sworn testimony. But a criminal jury will not be allowed to hear what he says if Dow doesn’t get the chance to question him in person.

“The Supreme Court has increasingly enforced the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation of witnesses,” Fernow said. “All the prior testimony that might come into evidence is not admissible in a criminal case unless the defense has the opportunity to cross-examine the witness.”

That civil trial was decided on a lower standard of a “preponderance of the evidence,” essentially whichever side was more likely right. Mirlis’s claims will now have to hold up to the higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

What’s the status of the civil lawsuit?

In May 2017, Greer lost a $21 million verdict, once punitive damages were added on.

During the trial, he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions. A civil jury is legally allowed to draw an “adverse inference” from his silence, while a criminal jury can’t hold it against a defendant.

Still, the rabbi’s attorney, David Grudberg, argued that the non-answers led to “undue prejudice” against Greer.

Five months later, Grudberg filed motions for the judge to reconsider. He asked for a redo on the trial because he allegedly found a new witness who used to teach at the yeshiva. He asked for relief from the judgment because it exceeded that of other sexual abuse cases.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea, who presided over the case, rejected both motions.

In December 2017, Greer went higher up, appealing to the Second Circuit Court.

What’s the basis for the appeal?

Grudberg is arguing that the jury just couldn’t see through the “inflammatory” testimony, especially the rabbi’s pleading the Fifth.

“One bedrock principle of American jurisprudence is that cases must be decided on facts and law — and not be influenced by extraneous forces such as sympathy, anger or prejudice,” Grudberg wrote in his initial brief.

Ponvert said the the jury instructions about the Fifth Amendment had been copied almost verbatim from the Second Circuit’s past rulings, with some edits that Greer’s legal team had suggested.

He added that the eight-figure judgment shouldn’t be reduced, since it was exactly what the jury thought Greer deserved. “The sad and horrific fact is that there is no other sexual abuse case with damages meaningfully comparable to this one,” Ponvert wrote.

Grudberg and Ponvert have requested a chance to present oral arguments to the circuit court judges in the coming months.

Have there been any payments at all yet?

Last summer, Mirlis foreclosed on Greer’s West Park Avenue home. But after factoring in exemptions, he could collect only around $67,500 from the property, so he decided to take that as a lump sum in a settlement deal.

Around the same time, a state marshal also seized one of Greer’s bank accounts, collecting just $6,642.

That’s $74,142 altogether in cash.

That’s it?

Matthew Beatman, Mirlis’s collections attorney, also obtained strict foreclosures on the two undeveloped lots in Bethany, valued at roughly $200,000 each. A state judge effectively signed those deeds over to Mirlis in July 2018.

Why has there been so little?

Right after the verdict, Sarah Greer, the rabbi’s wife, pocketed $238,000 from the joint bank account in three transactions, including writing herself a $220,000 check.

In December 2018, Mirlis filed a separate federal lawsuit in federal court against her, claiming that she’d done this “to hinder, delay or defraud” the victim. Last month, her defense attorney, Stuart Margolis, denied the claims in a heavily redacted answer.

Did attorneys seize any of the other properties where Mirlis claims he was abused?

Mirlis told the detectives that, as the abuse became a “regular thing,” Greer sexually assaulted him on a near-weekly basis at the yeshiva’s dorms on Elm Street and at rental properties on Norton Street, Edgewood Avenue, Maple Street and Park Street.

But Beatman hasn’t yet been able to get at any of the 53 rental apartments throughout the Edgewood neighborhood, which are owned by nonprofits that Greer controls. It’s unclear if they’ll ever be able to.

Why not?

When Ponvert filed the civil case for Mirlis, he included the yeshiva and the nonprofit housing corporations as defendants for showing recklessness in allowing the abuse to continue. But right before trial, Ponvert pulled the nonprofits off.

Since then, Beatman has been trying to tie them back to Greer, including by taking a deposition about their ownership.

What is the status on the foreclosure of the school?

Greer doesn’t want to give up the yeshiva. Instead, his collections attorney Lauren McNair offered Mirlis a cash bond of equal or greater value to the property’s value. By the city’s assessment, that could be at least $6.2 million.

Beatman’s associate, John Cesaroni, however, said in an objection that he was skeptical Greer come up with that kind of cash. He called Greer’s proposal “strikingly lacking” in details. He said McNair had skipped over how much Greer thought the school was worth, how much he was willing to pay in cash, and how he’d even get a loan or even pay it back. Cesaroni called the idea “fatally flawed.”

In March 2018, Beatman’s firm asked for permission to enter the yeshiva to let their appraisers look around. Since then, there have been no new filings in the foreclosure case.

When is the soonest the victim will start receiving significant money?

In December 2018, Judge Shea ordered Greer to start making regular payments of $296 a week. That would be taken from the rabbi’s $1,003 weekly salary from one of the nonprofit housing corporations, plus $46 weekly rental income from a Rhode Island apartment.

Within the month, Greer’s lawyers filed notice of plans to appeal. The rabbi missed his first payments.

Cesaroni too filed a motion asking the judge to garnish wages automatically. A court date hasn’t been set for that argument.

Will the judgment ever be satisfied?

At the current payment rate, probably not —  unless Beatman can pierce the corporate veil around Greer’s rental properties.

That’s not unusual, said Thomas McNamara, a lawyer who filed sexual-abuse cases against the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Hartford.

“You can’t get blood from a stone,” McNamara said. “You can have a judgment sitting out there that’s not worth the piece of paper it’s written on.”

Previous coverage of this case:

Suit: Rabbi Molested, Raped Students
Greer’s Housing Corporations Added To Sex Abuse Lawsuit
2nd Ex-Student Accuses Rabbi Of Sex Assault
2nd Rabbi Accuser Details Alleged Abuse
Rabbi Sexual Abuse Jury Picked
On Stand, Greer Invokes 5th On Sex Abuse
Rabbi Seeks To Bar Blogger from Court
Trial Mines How Victims Process Trauma
Wife, Secretary Come To Rabbi Greer’s Defense
Jury Awards $20M In Rabbi Sex Case
State Investigates Greer Yeshiva’s Licensing
Rabbi Greer Seeks New Trial
Affidavit: Scar Gave Rabbi Greer Away
Rabbi Greer Pleads Not Guilty
$21M Verdict Upheld; Where’s The $?
Sex Abuse Victim’s Video Tests Law
Decline at Greer’s Edgewood “Village”?
Rabbi’s Wife Sued For Stashing Cash

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Comments

posted by: Marion on February 6, 2019  2:17pm

Maybe I missed it, but did they at least take measures to ensure Greer doesn’t flee the country? Take his passport, ankle bracelet and monitoring etc??

posted by: Carl Goldfield on February 6, 2019  3:23pm

Would you please explain the purpose in relating the graphic details of the assault in this article. I’m no fan or defender of Dan Greer but they are simply inflammatory.  For a publication that professes to be concerned about the rights of the accused (refrains from publishing the names of those arrested) this reveals a weird double standard.

[Editor: We heavily reported Rabbi Greer’s side during extensive coverage of the trial. Before that we interviewed his lawyers. We felt therefore it met our standard of making sure we have the side of the accused. In addition, he is a public figure because he had responsibility for the care of children, and he took a public stance on issues related to this as a religious leader.

I am concerned that people downplay and dismiss the acts of alleged sexual predators. So I do feel it’s important to detail what exactly they are accused of doing so that it’s not so easily dismissed.]

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on February 6, 2019  9:55pm

Is the Greer Empire still receiving hundreds of thousands in State funds?

My understanding is the answer is yes!

posted by: BevHills730 on February 6, 2019  10:24pm

Nearly every article in the NHI has a person who earns Noteworthy’s wrath.  Yet Noteworthy only offers silence or a defense for this monster. 

It’s a shame justice has been so slow in this case.  Let’s hope Greer spends the rest of his life behind bars.  He should lose the school immediately.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 7, 2019  11:45am

The level of detail in this story is unnecessary especially in light of the editor’s rationale which stripped down to its core - means the NHI wants a conviction and absent that happening fast enough in the courts, is willing to try and tilt the public commentary to make sure Rabbi Greer is convicted in the court of public opinion. 

We don’t need this level of detail, especially when it’s repeated. It was published before. Repeating it doesn’t change what the accused has said.

As for BevHills - your ongoing commentary trashing my views and impugning my character is fine. I really don’t care. But what I will say is this: My view on this case is simple. It’s called due process and equitable treatment under the law. Greer has a right to defend himself and to use all legal means to do so just as other defendants do. His standing in the community doesn’t diminish those rights. You on the other hand, BevHills, seem all to gleeful to convict without evidence, without a court proceeding and you choose to embrace a civil court finding of liability and apply that to a criminal court action. You’re wrong. It’s as simple as that and I don’t think if you were in Greer’s position, that you would want anything less.

As for my wrath in other articles - you should read more.

posted by: EPDP on February 7, 2019  12:51pm

The press should publish details about criminal cases, even cases with lurid details.  Nobody complains when the press publishes articles about victims of cannibals and other sick human beings.  Mr. Greer is entitled to defend himself under the law, but this is a man who for the last forty years has presented himself as a leader of the Jewish community, a man of high moral character and ethics. For a jury to have found Mr. Greer liable for over $20 million in monetary damages for sexually assaulting Mr. Mirlis doesn’t say much for Mr. Greer’s defense, if any.  I watched the entire trial, and I found the evidence against Mr. Greer to be overwhelming.  Mr. Greer knew Avi Hack and Avi’s parents and siblings since they were born.  Avi Hack received no benefit by testifying against Mr. Greer.  To have two victims come forward and testify against Mr. Greer, from the insular Orthodox Jewish community, speaks volumes. During trial Mr. Ponvert pointed out that Mr. Greer’s entire family, other than his wife, left New Haven.  Mr. Greer had nobody supporting him during the trial other than his wife. Other than his wife, Mr. Greer’s secretary was the only person who testified for Mr. Greer.  If Mr. Greer had any respect for the legal system that has provided him with due process rights, he would accept the judgment and make payments to Mr. Mirlis, rather than spending his money on high priced lawyers.  Mr. Greer has no respect for the legal system.  After the jury verdict he filed tax appeals on all of the properties owned by his non-profit entities in order to get his property tax bills reduced.  His tax bill is already low because his non-profit entities are largely tax exempt from property taxes.  After the verdict the State of Connecticut found that his school was operating without the proper permits for many years.

posted by: BevHills730 on February 7, 2019  1:26pm

I was wrong. Noteworthy once again offers a vocal defense of Greer.  Noteworthy is not being truthful with what he has argued.  He has not just called for due process. 

On pedophiles he has argued, “At 14, you have the ability to say no. At 16, you really have the ability.”

On families that are being ripped apart for immigrant deterrence without plans to join them together again, he has argued, “There is zero excuse to break in and try to use our heart and your kids as a human shield.”

Glee for state-sanctioned kidnapping, reprimand for publishing details about a someone who has been found guilty of causing damages for molestation by a federal jury.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 7, 2019  4:24pm

Bev Hills:

You don’t know squat about me or this issue. As someone who was sexually abused by somebody in the “ministry”, I can assure you that what I wrote is absolutely true. At 16 years old, you have enough faculties about you to resist, to say no. To not only refuse to say no, but to come back as an adult - sorry, it raises a lot of freaking questions.  As for immigrant families - sorry - these parents or fake parents put these kids at risk and those parents who are sending their children over the border unaccompanied are acting in the most irresponsible way possible. I’m married to a legal immigrant, someone who came here abiding by the laws and became a naturalized citizen. Those who don’t, offend her and me and all of her family who paid big money and spent many years waiting in line and for permission. They didn’t cut the line, they didn’t break in. They didn’t fake the need for asylum or attempt to manipulate the system.

posted by: EPDP on February 7, 2019  10:52pm

Noteworthy:  You cannot assume that all 16 year olds are strong enough to resist an assault by an adult.  Fully grown adults get raped, molested and battered all the time by other adults without resisting.  Abuse occurs when you have a setting where one adult has power over another adult or child.  Judge Shea, who has worked on molestation cases for many years, pointed out during the Mirlis trial that it was not uncommon for victims to bond with their abusers, not unlike the Stockholm Syndrome.  It was pointed out during trial that Mirlis’ family had issues which required the involvement of social service agencies.  Mr. Greer purposely recruited teenagers who came from broken homes or who had emotional problems as they were easier to victimize.  With regard to your comments about illegals, people who risk their lives to come to this country are fleeing violent narco States or extreme poverty.  Why would anyone risk his life to sneak across the border to get a job as a low paid laborer at the hands of an abusive employer and live in constant fear of getting deported?

posted by: BevHills730 on February 8, 2019  7:11am

And there you have it. No one here can judge Greer and the NHI can’t publish details about his abuse even after a federal jury found him guilty of causing damages.  Yet Noteworthy can condemn thousands of people who lose their kids and who are seeking asylum as breaking the law before knowing a detail about their case.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 8, 2019  12:30pm

EDP:

I don’t assume that every 15 or 16 year old can handle the abuse or get away with resisting. I didn’t resist more because I was so shocked than anything. But I also didn’t turn it into victimhood either or stick around for more abuse from the same person. Or return as an adult. There are lots of troubling details. What I know is that the criminal trial if it occurs will be done with a much higher standard of proof and evidence than the civil one. It is interesting the alleged victim pursed the money before he pursued the criminal.

posted by: challenge on February 8, 2019  12:57pm

Hmmmm. I too have to wonder why Noteworthy defends this pervert. Family member /friend? Greer should be sharing a cell with other pedophiles banished from our society. He has faced the courts, been convicted and mandated to compensate his victims. There’s nothing left to do but cage this animal if it’s evident he has no plan to do so.Allowing him to be free allows him opportunities to continue hurting children. And yes what is the status of the state revenue stream to him? The question remains..why is he still free?