Rabbi Barry Freundel, who pleaded guilty to surreptitiously videotaping women as they prepared to use the spiritual bath at the National Capital Mikvah, is in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, and wears shackles on his hands and legs whenever he leaves his jail cell.
A Kesher Israel Congregation member who has on more than one occasion visited Freundel at the D.C. Correctional Facility said Freundel’s mood “varies. Sometimes he’s extremely depressed and sometimes he’s his normal self,” said the visitor, who requested anonymity.
“He has tremendous remorse. Frustration, also,” the visitor said. If the court had not barred Freundel from having any contact with his victims, he would have reached out to them “to say he’s sorry. … He gets what he did. He knows people were hurt.”
Shortly after his arrest, Freundel, 63, sought psychiatric treatment and traveled to New York weekly for a double session of therapy, the source said.
Meanwhile, two matters are pending. Attorney Jeffrey Harris has filed a request in D.C. Superior Court to have Freundel’s 6 ½ year sentence reduced. A July 31 hearing is scheduled in Superior Court on the motion to correct what he has called an illegal sentence.
Freundel was sentenced to 45 days for each of the 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism that he pleaded guilty to, for a total of 6 ½ years. Harris is asking the judge to reconsider the sentence and merge all 52 counts into one count for sentencing. Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of one year.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Amy Zubrensky and Priya Naik have submitted a 15-page opposition brief, arguing that the sentence handed down in the case was legal and that Freundel understood when he pleaded guilty that he could be sentenced consecutively on each count, with up to one year of incarceration per count.
Also pending is the outcome of D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin’s June 9 order recommending that the federal Bureau of Prisons and D.C. jail move Freundel to a satellite camp attached to a federal facility at Otisville, N.Y., or Miami, Fla. Retchin cited “the unusual nature” of Freundel’s sentence, Freundel’s “desire to continue his observance of Orthodox Judaism and to avail himself of rehabilitation programs” and “the lack of religious and rehabilitative programs” in the D.C. jail.
The federal prison bureau, not the sentencing judge, has the ultimate say in where a federal prisoner serves his or her term.
At the D.C. jail, Freundel is given his tefillin each morning, but he is not able to properly celebrate Shabbat, said the KI congregant who visited him. At first, he could not wear his tzitzit, but this request has since been approved.
The source attempted to bring Freundel grape juice and a challah, but jail officials intervened, advising him that only food supplied by an approved vendor can be brought into the jail. Freundel is able to use an incandescent light as his Shabbat candles, but that only was approved after he had been in the jail almost two months, the visitor said.
During his visits, Freundel remained shackled and complains of pain in his wrists and hands that has been acute enough to cut short a visit, according to his friend.
Jail officials told the source that both solitary confinement and shackles were recommended for Freundel’s own benefit, as he has received death threats. “He’s not allowed into any general population,” the source reported.
While Sylvia Lane, government and public affairs coordinator at the jail, declined to comment on whether Freundel has received death threats, she wrote in an email to Washington Jewish Week, “Please be advised that as a general practice, those with high profile cases are housed in units with heightened security and oversight.”
Freundel also has complained he is not receiving his prescribed medications for back pain, a heart problem and possible diabetes, according to the source, who added that Freundel was taken to a hospital Saturday night.
Lane wrote in an email that she is not permitted to discuss Freundel’s medical status.
Lack of information is a problem, the source said. “Nothing you are told, you can count on,” including when visitation is allowed or when Freundel can receive or make phone calls.
“It’s not like reading [author Franz] Kafka. It’s like living Kafka.”