Last summer 26 year old Shimen Liebowitz conspired with two other Satmars named Gottlieb and Goldberg to order a hit on a husband who refused to grant his wife a Jewish divorce, ie., a get. These three Satmars hired an investigator, who turned out to be an FBI snitch, to carry out the job. The snitch then tape recorded conversations between these three guys from Kiryas Joel, a tight Satmar community from Upstate New York, not far from the Otisville Federal prison, where I was incarcerated.
The Hasids at first decided to kidnap the husband. But they were fearful that the husband would go to the police and start an investigation. It would be far easier to kill him. But killing him would create other problems, such as how do they dispose of the body? And they would need a witness to attest to the husband’s death in order for the wife to remarry under Jewish law. Who was going to tell a rabbi that he saw the husband get whacked?
Here is an excerpt of the transcript that the snitch recorded between Liebowitz and the Snitch:
Liebowitz: “He could miss a night, or even two or three without his family growing concerned about his whereabouts I can tell you in the back of my mind, it looks like, his parents will be happy when it happens.”
The Snitch: “If he’s fu*%ing dead? Okay.”
The Snitch: “Fine. That makes me calm. I feel better if he is disappearing. Let me ask you another questions. With Goldberg going back to Israel and you and me staying over here, if someone finds him, it’s going to start to be a big thing. We have to have a plan. They’re going to find him eventually. It’s going to start to be a big thing. He’s a Satmar Hasid?”
The Snitch: “It’s going to start to be a big thing in your community. So is there anything that you’ve thought about how we play the game after? The parents are going to be upset. Someone lost a son. The parents are going to point to some people, right? I’m assuming.”
Liebowitz: “The parents would most likely point to Goldberg, they most likely do not know my name, I think if anything, Goldberg would be the first person, probably, and the police would suspect the wife’s family.”
The Snitch: “Now if he’s dead, we don’t need the rabbis. We don’t need the beth din. If he’s dead, I don’t know what will happen. You know, I don’t care if he’s dead. It’s better off like that, because if he’s injured, he’s gonna say, ‘I know this guy. I remember this guy. There was one guy that was a tall guy.’ He’s gonna start to talk. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I have no problem. I did it before. It’s okay. But here it’s a little different. It’s because the Satmar community, you know, the police have interest to go after your people, you understand? Here, it’s Satmar, you know how the news is gonna jump. A Satmar Hasid found dead, think, everybody is going to start to dig in. Every newspaper is going to start to dig in.”
Here is an excerpt of the transcript that the snitch recorded between Liebowitz, The Snitch, and Goldberg:
Liebowitz: “If we kill him, arrangements would have to be made to ensure that there was a witness who could verify that he was dead, and that the wife could remarry, without leading back to us. Somebody is going to need to tell a rabbi that they saw the death.”
Goldberg: “How about we bury him and see to it that the body was exhumed and identified using DNA.”
Liebowitz: “There is no way to put him out on the street somewhere?”
The Snitch: “If you put him dead today, tonight on the street, it’s too early people are going to find, you know. Maybe finger, I don’t know what’s left of him. But if you want three months he left with bones, left with bones, and no one, you is a link to something, an anonymous phone for the police in Israel, in a scrambler phone to tell them go to this location to find the body, listen there is a way how to do it later on.”
Liebowitz: “There’s no way to take him overseas, is there?”
Liebowitz pleaded guilty under a plea bargain to conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, an obscure Federal law that spares Liebowitz 20 years to life that he would get for conspiracy to commit murder. Liebowitz has been incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since his arrest. He will be sentenced next month. Liebowitz filed a motion requesting that he be released from prison until his sentencing so that he can observe the Jewish holidays. This is what his lawyers argued in their brief:
“We make this motion so that Mr. Liebowitz can observe the Jewish holidays properly and with his family. Currently Mr. Liebowitz is incarcerated at MDC in Brooklyn. MDC does not have a quorum of Jews who engage in prayer (for which ten Jews are required), does not have a mikvah (ritual bath), and the sukkah (religious hut in which observant Jews are required to eat in on Sukkot) is not accessible throughout the day. These are all parts of the religious requirements needed for observant Jews like Mr. Liebowitz to properly observe the upcoming Jewish holidays—Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. It is nearly impossible for an Orthodox Jew to properly observe and celebrate either the High Holidays or Sukkot in MDC”
The lawyers for Liebowitz tried to get Liebowitz sent to Otisville Federal prison while he was waiting to be sentenced. This effort failed as the Bureau of Prisons won’t allow inmates to sit in Otisville prior to sentencing. The lawyers argued in their brief: “MDC is a particularly harsh place to be in prison at any time—and it is even worse for a religious Jew during the holidays, because it is impossible to properly observe the Jewish holidays at MDC. We hoped he would be transferred to a prison, such as FCI Otisville, where there are other religious Jews and which can properly accommodate Mr. Liebowitz’s religious needs during the holidays. That proved impossible.”
Liebowitz wanted to be a real criminal with real street cred. He was part of a conspiracy that debated whether to have the victim whacked, or kidnapped and beaten. The Sopranos ran the exact same episode ten years prior, when Liebowitz was 16 years old. The only way Tony Soprano was able to get the husband to agree to give the get was when Tony’s Jewish shylock friend Heshy told him: “act like a mohel, finish his bris.” Now Liebowitz wants to be locked up in Camp Cupcake with the fraudsters and ponzi schemers? Wouldn’t he rather be locked up with the murderers and terrorists in MDC?