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The New Jersey Supreme Court has just granted Rabbi Osher Eisemann a major victory in his years long legal saga brought on by Governor Murphy's Administration.

The State's highest court has denied the Attorney General's Office's petition to review the Appellate Division's ruling which affirmed Rabbi Eisemann's right to a new trial.

In February 2019, a jury acquitted Rabbi Eisemann of corruption of public resources, theft by unlawful taking, and misapplication of entrusted property.

The jury also acquitted SCHI's fundraising foundation of all charges.

However, the jury did make a finding of guilt on second-degree money laundering and misconduct by a corporate official.

The charges carry sentences of 5 to 10 years in prison. 

However, citing Rabbi Eisemann's contributions to the community and school, the support he received from his community, the care he provided his disabled son, and his age, on April 29, 2019, Superior Court Judge Benjamin Bucca sentenced him to 60 days in jail, 2 years probation plus a $250,000 anti-money laundering profiteering penalty.

Judge Bucca specifically stated that a sentence imposed in accordance with the Code would "shock" his conscience, and therefore he gave a lighter sentence.

Rabbi Eisemann then appealed to the Appellate Division, seeking to dismiss all the charges against him. The Attorney General cross-appealed to the court to remand the trial to a different judge because Judge Bucca was too nice. This was the Attorney General's attempt to get a harsher 6-12 years prison sentence.

On December 31, 2020, after a delay due to the pandemic, the Appellate Division denied Rabbi Eisemann's motion to dismiss completely and granted the Attorney General's request to remand Rabbi Eisemann's 60-day sentence before a different judge.

The Appellate Division found that Judge Bucca was "not free to disregard the legislative scheme simply because he believed that the defendant had done many good deeds in his lifetime and had intended no harm."

Additionally, the court found that "the job of saying that a sentence imposed in accordance with the Code is too harsh belongs to a reviewing court and not to a sentencing judge, and therefore, it was not proper for the trial judge to use this claim."

In response, in February 2021, Rabbi Eisemann filed an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the state's highest court.

The Supreme Court only accepts to hear less than 10% of cases which seek their listening ear.

In April 2021, the Supreme Court formally denied Rabbi Eisemann's petition. At that point, a new sentencing date was set for July 23, 2021. Judge Joseph Paone was assigned to that hearing.

However, in June 2021, the case took a very positive spin with the filing of a motion for a retrial based on newly uncovered evidence in the form of testimony of the schools bookkeeper who made the QuickBooks entry on which the state relied on to prosecute Rabbi Eisemann... The bookkeeper provided a sworn certification that the entry she had made was evidence of nothing, and was no more than a bookkeeping maneuver to balance SCHI’s books.

Due to the filing of this explosive motion, Judge Paone tabled the scheduled sentencing hearing, and scheduled a hearing on the new motion for August 24, 2021. That hearing was adjourned to November 16, 2021.

On November 16, the Attorney General argued that the bookkeepers testimony was not credible. However, Judge Paone found it to be extremely "interesting," and he scheduled an evidentiary hearing to be held on March 15, 2022. That hearing was to determine whether or not the new evidence was shattering enough to toss the convictions.

As part of the motion brief filing on this matter, the defense revealed that the Attorney General withheld crucial evidence from the defense and jury - a blatant violation of the Brady Act.

Finally, in July 2022, Judge Paone dismissed Rabbi Eisemann’s convictions, saying that the newly uncovered evidence could sufficiently impact a jury as to require a new trial.

The judge denied the Brady Act claims, which, if granted, would have resulted in the case being dismissed with prejudice.

However, the judge noted that the defense's argument that the newly discovered evidence "would probably lead to a different result," if shown before a new jury, and he therefore granted a new trial.

Judge Paone scheduled December 1, 2022 as the date for a pre-trial hearing, and February 1, 2023 as the date for the jury selection of a new trial, with opening statements to commence on February 6, the following Monday.

However, the planned new trial was halted when, on August 1, 2022, the Attorney General filed an Interlocutory Appeal to the Appellate Division seeking to toss out the granting of a new trial.

The Attorney General's Office argued in their motion filing that Judge Paone did not have a right to order a new trial without first holding an evidentiary hearing to explore the new evidence. This was quite an interesting argument as they were actually the ones who told Judge Paone that they did not want to hold an evidentiary hearing to explore the new evidence!

On September 21, 2022, the Appellate Division agreed to hear this appeal, and granted a Stay on the scheduled new trial.

Ultimately, the Appellate Division heard oral arguments on the Prosecutors motion on April 25, 2023.

Prosecutors claimed that the new evidence is not exculpatory and should not warrant a new trial. They also asserted that Judge Paone had “no basis” to vacate Rabbi Eisemann’s convictions, insisting that the evidence did show that he used an arm of SCHI to cycle $200,000 of SCHI’s money through various bank accounts before transferring that money back as repayment for a loan.

An appellate judge immediately interjected, noting that there was a dispute whether such a loan had ever occurred.

Defense attorney Lee Vartan rebutted the Prosecutors arguments by pointing out that the entirety of the state’s prosecution of Rabbi Eisemann lay in their finding of the QuickBooks entry, so to now argue that withholding information about that entry – specifically, who made the entry – doesn’t make a difference, makes a mockery of the legal proceedings.

“We’re not asking for this court to exonerate Osher Eisemann, to declare he’s innocent, but only that a second jury should be able to hear all of the admissible evidence,” Vartan told the panel of judges.

As previously reported here on FAA News, over Shavuos, the Appellate Division released their decision affirming Judge Paone's granting of a new trial.

Judges Sumners, Geiger and Susswein wrote that Judge Paone "did not abuse his discretion in granting defendant a new trial."

The judges also wrote that they are "unpersuaded" with the Prosecutor's arguments that there was no Brady Act violation.

"Exhibit F was not in defendant's possession because it was created by the Prosecutor's Office's Financial Crimes Bureau Deputy Chief of Detectives William Fredric Fredrick's manipulation of the QuickBooks records, but it was material to defendant's defense because it showed the State's reliance on the bookkeeper's entry to establish defendant's money laundering. As the judge found, the bookkeeper's identity would not have been readily discernable upon examination of the school's records without substantial manipulation of the QuickBooks software. Creating Exhibit F involved manipulation of QuickBooks, as Fredrick described at trial. The State produced S-89 and S-90 at trial, but withheld Exhibit F, the second half of the audit trail, showing that the bookkeeper made the entry pertaining to the return of the $200,000 to the 022 account... Thus... even if defendant manipulated QuickBooks as Fredrick did, the fact remains the State did not disclose Exhibit F - which it created - to defendant."

Subsequently, Judge Paone scheduled a new trial.

Alas, New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin made it very clear that he does not intend to waive the white flag so soon, and he petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court to review this decision.

This was yet another attempt to stall off holding a whole new trial in which they would need to face the new compelling evidence.

B'chasdei Hashem, in yet another major victory in this ongoing saga, the Supreme Court has finally denied the Attorney General's petition, leaving us with the Appellate Division's ruling affirming Judge Paone's granting of a new trial!

While this is indeed a major victory, this does not guarantee that the matter is completely over, as a new drawn out trial could still be held.

However, this decision is HOPED to be the end of Rabbi Eisemann's years long legal saga, as the defense team has stated that it is likely that the Prosecutors will agree to drop the case instead of actually holding a whole new trial.

Either way, the great news is that now the Attorney General's hopes of going directly to sentencing where he would have sought a lengthy prison sentence are now dashed.

The Tzibbur is asked to continue to daven for Osher ben Chana Frumet.

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