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Pursuant to the New Jersey Bail Reform Act, the vast majority of individuals who are arrested and charged with a crime are released pre-trial in accordance with certain monitoring conditions.

The specific conditions are set out by the judge presiding over the detention hearing after hearing from the Prosecutor and the defense attorney.

Typically, individuals released pre-trial are prohibited from having any contact with the alleged victims. Often, to prevent an attempt to leave the country, they also are required to surrender their passport prior to being released.

In a developing case, an alleged victim wants to be able to take the stand and make her case why the suspect should be detained pre-trial.

The unique case has jumped all the way to the State's highest court.

Shalom “Sal” Yehudiel, 40, of Fair Lawn was an acclaimed chef and owner of Bergen County restaurants The Humble Toast, a Jewish deli, and La Cucina Di Nava, an Italian restaurant.

In 2020 he was the kosher chef to appear on the Food Network series “Chopped."

In 2019, Elisheva Akselrod, then 17 years old, went to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to seek criminal charges against Sal for allegedly grooming and abusing her at Fair Lawn’s Anshei Lubavitch synagogue, starting in 2016 when she was 14. The prosecutor’s office declined to press charges, saying that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.

In response, Akselrod she filed a civil lawsuit against the prosecutor’s office.

In March 2022, Sal was arrested in by Bergen county authorities who accused him of raping a different minor employed at one of his restaurants.

This arrest caused Sal to sell the Humble Toast and La Cucina Di Nava under pressure of losing his kosher certification.

The criminal prosecution ended last month, on Monday, August 7, 2023, when Bergen County Superior Court Judge Christopher Kazlau ruled that Sal had his rights violated by the FBI when they failed to surrender a video tied directly to the case, and therefore the prosecutors improperly obtained a grand jury indictment by omitting certain evidence.

Kazlau dismissed the charges without prejudice, which allows prosecutors to reinstate the case if any new evidence comes to light.

Just days later, Sal was once again arrested. As as he tried to board a flight at JFK International Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol notified the Port Authority Police Department that they had a fugitive in custody with a warrant out in New Jersey.

The reason for this arrest was that Ms. Akselrod, now 21, filed a citizen’s complaint against him with the Fair Lawn Police Department. As she previously sued Bergen County for failure to prosecute, they recused themselves due to the conflict of interest. The New Jersey Attorney General's Office reassigned the case to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, and they approved the arrest.

Sal is represented by attorneys Lee Vartan and Zach Intrater who said “there is no merit” to the latest charges.

Vartan added that his client was not trying to flee the country when he was arrested at the airport, saying “there was nothing to flee from” since the original sexual assault charges had been dismissed just prior.

On August 18, 2023, the Court held a pre-trial detention hearing and ordered Sal be released with conditions including that he surrender his passport and from traveling outside the United States without permission from the Court.

As typical for all pre-trial detention hearings, the criminal court judge presided over the detention hearing and heard from the Prosecutor and the defense attorney.

In a unique development, Ms. Akselrod's attorney filed a motion contending that Sal is a flight risk and therefore he should be detained pre-trial. (She couldn't argue that she feels at risk because his release conditions anyways prohibit him from having any contact with him).

The motion argued that she has standing to make such an argument pursuant to State Statue which permits victims to "appear in any court before which a proceeding implicating the rights of the victim is being held, with standing to file a motion or present argument on a motion filed to enforce any right conferred herein or by [a specific article of] the New Jersey Constitution, and to receive an adjudicative decision by the court on any such motion."

Bergen County Superior Court Judge Nina C. Remson denied the motion, finding that the New Jersey Constitution does not confer a right upon a crime victim to file their own motion for pre-trial detention. In fact, the Statue expressly provides for a "prosecutor" to file such a motion.

Judge Remson also cited State v. Lavrik which noted that crime victims have the right to be consulted about plea offers, but "that right must yield to the prosecutor's authority and discretion to enter into any plea agreement which the prosecutor deems appropriate." 

"Similarly, the determination whether to make an application to the court to detain pending trial is the province of the Prosecutor's Office, who has the authority to file such a motion. Nowhere is such standing conferred to a victim," Judge Remson concluded.

Amazingly, an undeterred Ms. Akselrod who is apparently hoping for legislation from the bench, is charging onward. Her attorney filed an emergency motion to the state's highest court, seeking leave to appeal Judge Remson's decision.

A single Supreme Court justice referred the matter to the entire court who has just agreed to review the matter.

Though this initial decision was emergent, the actual hearing of the petition will not be held for at least another few months. The parties have until November 27, 2023 to file briefs. Entities such as civil rights groups and prosecutor associations are likely to file amicus curiae briefs on the merits.

In a related matter, while being held in a Queens, New York, jail pending extradition to New Jersey, Sal was attacked.

“He cannot move his arm, and as of Sunday (was) still throwing up blood,” the attorneys said in a motion to dismiss the charges.

“Notwithstanding his family’s and his counsel’s best efforts, he was not taken for X-rays,” the motion says. “Even with a note from a doctor, Yehudiel’s jailers have refused him proper medical care.”

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