Woody Allen denies Dylan Farrow’s renewed molestation accusations


Film director Woody Allen defended himself on Friday from newly published accusations by his now-adult adopted daughter that he molested her as a child, calling the allegations “ludicrous” and the product of a bitter custody battle with his former partner, actress Mia Farrow.

An advance copy of Allen's op-ed piece, to be published in the upcoming Sunday edition of the New York Times, was posted online five days after Dylan Farrow, 28, revived and elaborated on the decades-old accusation in her own words in an open letter on the Times' website.

Allen was never arrested or prosecuted after the allegations of sexual abuse against him first surfaced in 1993 and were investigated by state police in Connecticut, where Mia Farrow and her children lived.

He said the accusations originally struck him as “so ludicrous I didn't give it a second thought.”

And he quoted findings from a review of the case by the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital, which he said concluded: “It is our expert opinion that Dylan was not sexually abused by Mr. Allen.”

He said he agreed with the clinic's findings that Dylan's account was likely the product of “an emotionally vulnerable child who was caught up in a disturbed family” and was “coached or influenced by her mother.”

“Of course, I did not molest Dylan,” Allen wrote. “I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father and exploited by a mother more interested in her own festering anger than her daughter's well-being.”

Representatives for Mia and Dylan Farrow were not immediately available for comment.

Mia Farrow, now 68, who appeared in more than a dozen of Allen's films, ended a 12-year relationship with the director in 1992 amid revelations that he had an affair with her then-22-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, whom Allen later married.

Allen has long asserted that Farrow fabricated the molestation claims against him and planted them in Dylan's mind as a ploy to damage him in the custody battle that ensued.

The sex abuse claim against the prolific four-time Oscar winner, famed for such films as “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan,” was first revisited by Dylan Farrow and her mother in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine last year.

SCANDAL RENEWED AT AWARDS SEASON

The actress and her son, Ronan Farrow, renewed attention on the scandal again on Twitter during the telecast of January's Golden Globe Awards, where Allen was given a lifetime achievement honor.

Dylan Farrow then expanded on the molestation accusations in the New York Times last Sunday, asserting that Allen assaulted her in a closet-sized attic of the family home 21 years ago.

She also detailed a pattern of what she said were other instances of sexually inappropriate behavior by Allen toward her over the years.

The resurgent imbroglio comes as Allen stands nominated for best original screenplay at the Oscars on March 2 for his latest film, “Blue Jasmine,” which also garnered acting nominations for Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins.

Allen did not suggest his daughter was lying, but rather that she had “come to believe she's been molested” after “many years of indoctrination” by her mother.

He also cited Dylan Farrow's older brother, Moses Farrow, as a character witness in his defense, quoting him from a recent People magazine article asserting that Allen never molested his sister and that their mother “succeeded in creating the atmosphere of fear and hate towards him.”

Moses Farrow, who was 14 at the time, is now a 36-year-old family therapist.

Allen also questioned Mia Farrow's veracity in relation to his presumed biological son, Ronan, whose paternity was called into question by his mother in the Vanity Fair expose last year. In it, she stated publicly for the first time that she believed Ronan might actually have been fathered by singer Frank Sinatra, with whom she had an affair while she was with Allen.

“Granted, he looks a lot like Frank with the blue eyes and facial features, but if so, what does this say?” Allen wrote.

“Even if he is not Frank's, the possibility she raises that he could be, indicates she was secretly intimate with him during our years,” Allen wrote. “Not to mention all the money I paid for child support. Was I supporting Frank's son? Again, I want to call attention to the integrity and honesty of a person who conducts her life like that.”

The filmmaker had previously issued denials of the latest molestation claims against him through statements by his attorney in multiple television appearances earlier this week.

Allen wrote in his personal rejoinder on Friday: “This piece will be my final word on this entire matter, and no one will be responding on my behalf to any further comments on it by any party.”

Reporting by Eric Kelsey and Steve Gorman; Editing by Ken Wills

Woody Allen’s many confessions haven’t prepared us for the worst accusation yet


“What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?”

This usually innocuous question provoked a frisson of uneasiness as the opening line of Dylan Farrow’s open letter to the Hollywood community and the world at large about her alleged molestation by Woody Allen at the age of 7.

The allegations, originally leveled in the early ‘90s during a vicious custody battle between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, resurfaced recently after Allen won a Golden Globes lifetime achievement award. Now the 28-year-old Farrow has opened up for the first time – and unleashed an avalanche of commentary and argument. There are those who argue for Allen’s innocence; others have reached out to Farrow in support; even the Onion commented on the outpouring of emotion provoked by the letter, pointing out that devotees of Allen’s films “are really in a tight spot.”

Allen, now 78, is not the first powerful man to face an unusually unwelcome spotlight in light of molestation charges; he is not even the first beloved film director to do so. Comparisons have inevitably arisen between Allen and Roman Polanski, whose accuser, Samantha Geiner, wrote a book subtitled “My Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski” about her experiences in the aftermath of accusing a celebrity of rape.

But what is it about Allen that really strikes a nerve – nerves, of course, being Allen’s topic of choice throughout his film career – and kicks up such a storm of emotion?

Woody Allen is one of those cultural creators who has spawned, through his work, a cultural archetype that goes far beyond him. The culture writer Chuck Klosterman said it best in his 2004 essay “This Is Emo”:

“Woody Allen made it acceptable for beautiful women to sleep with nerdy, bespectacled goofballs; all we need to do is fabricate the illusion of intellectual humor, and we somehow have a chance… By now, the ‘Woody Allen Personality Type’ has far greater cultural importance than the man himself.”

Intellectual humor is certainly part of Allen’s appeal, and that of his characters. But the basis of that humor is often confessional and self-deprecating. Allen’s characters are compulsively self-critical; in his early film works, in which Allen doppelgangers made frequent appearances, these central characters confess fears, flaws and misbehaviors with abandon. “I’m spiritually bankrupt. I’m empty,” the titular, Allenesque (and Allen—played) character says in 1997’s “Deconstructing Harry.” Another character describes him as “all nihilism, cynicism, sarcasm and orgasm.”

Allen’s very persona, his public face, is about confession. The word “neurotic” – often accompanied by the adjective “lovably” – follows every description of his humor (and the man himself). Allen makes us love him in his films by confessing so relentlessly, creating an instantaneous intimacy that keeps us focused, arrested. Even in more recent films, where Allen has largely retreated behind the camera, characters like Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine show uncanny insight into their own depredations. The final shot of “Blue Jasmine” shows Blanchett’s descent into madness: but in talking to herself, she’s really talking to us, inviting us into the chaos of her consciousness. This is in the underpinning of Allen’s broad cultural appeal: he shows us the fragile, fractured man behind the curtain.

Or so it seemed. Farrow’s allegations make Allen’s relentless confessions seem inadequate. What if all that openness, that willing confession to sin and weakness that’s Allen’s trademark style, is really just a mask of another kind? If the faults Allen has acknowledged in himself —a nd they are myriad, and draw us closer — are just a front for deeper and more monstrous ones, from which we would, inevitably, flinch?

That’s the question Farrow’s letter provokes. In the swirling murk of commentary from every angle, amid accusations of implanted memories or paid-off judicial experts from 1993, it’s hard to draw out any kind of truth. But what’s certain is that this possible betrayal echoes back through the decades of Allen’s work, to the foundations of his public persona and the archetypes he’s spawned.

Syracuse fires basketball coach Bernie Fine amid sex probe


Syracuse University fired assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine amid allegations that he sexually molested boys, rocking the multi-million dollar world of collegiate sports with more questions of sexual abuse and oversight, the university said on Sunday.

“At the direction of Chancellor (Nancy) Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately,” the school said on its website.

Fine, who had been on administrative leave since Nov. 17, is the target of a grand jury investigation into accusations that years ago he molested a former ball boy, Bobby Davis, now 39, and at least one other boy, his stepbrother Mike Lang, now 45, when they were juveniles.

Fine’s boss for the past 35 years, Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, said on Sunday he supported the firing, withdrawing support he’d extended Fine when the allegations resurfaced this month. The university first investigated and dismissed the allegations for lack of corroboration in 2005.

“I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged,” Boeheim said in a statement posted on the Syracuse Orange sports Facebook page.

“What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated,” he said. ” … I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse,” he said.

The firing came hours after ESPN reported it had an audio recording of a 2002 conversation between Davis and Fine’s wife Laurie in which she said she knew about the alleged molestation but felt unable to stop it.

Neither the tape nor any additional witnesses surfaced when the university conducted its own 2005 investigation into Davis’ allegations, Cantor said in a statement on the school website.

Now that a new probe is underway by Syracuse Police, the school has hired an independent law firm to “review our procedures in responding to the initial allegations. … We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson,” she said.

Fine has called the accusations against him “patently false in every aspect.”

LATEST JOLT

The firing was the latest jolt to major college athletics already reeling from allegations of abuse and possible cover-ups at football powerhouse Penn State, where a former assistant coach faces 40 sexual abuse charges.

Those accusations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, charged by a grand jury with sexually abusing eight young boys, took down legendary football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier.

They were fired for failing to tell police about the allegations of abuse once they learned of it years earlier. Two other Penn State officials were charged with perjury.

Syracuse is the third major American university to disclose alleged abuse since the school year began. South Carolina military college The Citadel also said it had failed to tell police about a student accused in 2007 of inappropriate behavior with children at a college summer camp.

In Syracuse, police have said they opened an investigation into Fine when Davis’ stepbrother came forward with his own allegations. The grand jury is also investigating those allegations but no criminal charges have been filed.

Fine’s lawyer, speaking on Sunday before he was fired, said his client would no longer speak publicly about the case.

“Mr. Fine will not comment on newspaper stories beyond his initial statement,” attorney Karl Sleight said in a statement in response to allegations by a third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, made on Facebook and carried in media reports on Sunday.

“Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities,” Sleight said. Attempts to reach Syracuse police and city officials on Sunday for further comment were unsuccessful.

Syracuse’s basketball team is currently undefeated and the university in upstate New York is widely heralded as having one of the top college basketball programs in the country. (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan)

Child sex arrests spike. Or do they?


Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes claims to have arrested an unprecedented 89 men on child sex-abuse charges in the ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn over the past two years — but declines to provide any details backing up the numbers or to give the status of any of the cases.

Sexual abuse survivors and their advocates have long harried Hynes for allegedly overlooking molesters in the borough’s tight-knit, ultra-Orthodox communities. They charge that Hynes fears political retaliation from the borough’s powerful rabbinic leaders and their bloc-voting Orthodox voters.

Hynes heatedly denies this. And the data he offered the Forward seems to suggest a breakthrough. But his office’s refusal to provide even basic details on any of these cases makes it impossible to evaluate and confirm the true nature and extent of Hynes’ claim.

Initially, when the Forward requested data in mid-October on child sex abuse arrests in the Orthodox community, Jerry Schmetterer, the DA’s spokesman, said his office does not compile statistics based on the “race or religion” of people it arrests.

When the Forward brought to his attention that the DA’s office released a similar statistic in 2009 — of 26 Orthodox men who had been arrested for sexual abuse over the previous two years — Schmetterer said he would consult the DA’s sex crimes bureau.

In late October, Schmetterer said that 89 Orthodox men had been arrested and charged with sex abuse since October 2009.

He repeated the claim twice, in two separate conversations. But when the Forward asked for written confirmation and posed a number of follow-up questions, Schmetterer declined to respond.

“We are not prepared to discuss this at this time,” Schmetterer said in an October 27 e-mail. “Perhaps towards the end of November.”

Just why the DA’s office would be unwilling to respond is unclear, particularly because the staggering figure appears to bolster the DA’s claim that he is getting tough on Orthodox abuse.

In October 2009, the figure of 26 arrests was seen as a landmark following decades during which the DA rarely prosecuted sex abuse cases against Orthodox men despite advocates’ claims that the problem was rampant. The New York Times ran a Page One story trumpeting the change.

But the latest number — much like the 2009 figure — has proved impossible to verify.

The Forward combed through news reports and interviewed people who specialize in sex abuse cases.

Since October 2009, the Forward was able to find nine arrests and three convictions of Orthodox men, including that of Boro Park rabbi Baruch Lebovits, currently out on bail and under house arrest pending an appeal.

Asher Lipner, a clinical psychologist who is also an advocate for survivors of abuse, said he was not aware of anything near 89 arrests during the past two years. “If that’s the case,” Lipner said, “how come there haven’t been too many convictions?”

Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice, said the DA’s figures raised a “very troubling question.”

“At least some of these 100-plus cases [over the past four years] must have been resolved by now,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch, who said he regularly monitored new registrations of convicted sex abusers for heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods asked, “Why haven’t we seen a marked increase in Orthodox perpetrators registered as sex offenders? Without public notice identifying dangerous predators, parents are unable to protect their children.”

He added, “We deserve public notice of the arrest and conviction of Orthodox sex offenders, not culturally sensitive policies that keep these cases from the public, thereby placing children in danger.”

The difficulties the Forward has had verifying the DA’s claims are reminiscent of issues that arose two years ago, when the DA claimed 26 child sexual abuse arrests in the Orthodox community between 2007 and 2009.

In October 2009, the Forward requested those arrest details from the DA’s office. It received a list of 26 cases, including charges, but without names and with a note that said, “There are a few cases which involve adult female victims.”

Last year, the Forward submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to see the names of the 26 men.

The Forward’s request was denied, as was a subsequent appeal. One of the reasons the DA’s office gave, in March 2010, was that the list had been compiled so long ago, without names or indictment numbers, that it would be “impossible to discern” the cases that were listed.

If the latest figure of 89 arrests during the past two years is correct, it would appear to suggest that the ultra-Orthodox community’s wall of silence has been breached once and for all.

Survivors and their advocates cautiously welcomed the figure. But they suggested that an increase in arrests may have as much — if not more — to do with grassroots pressure from within the community than from the DA’s work.

Luzer Twersky, who claims he was abused by a rabbi from the age of 9 until he was 12, said the DA has little influence within the Orthodox world.

“Everything is done in a Hasidic way,” Twersky said, referring to what he described as the community’s preference to handle matters internally and, occasionally, to pay victims for their silence.

In Twersky’s case, he said a threatening telephone call to his father from a prominent rabbi was enough to keep him quiet.

Today, claims abound that communities close ranks and that rabbis stifle abuse allegations.

Agudath Israel of America, the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization, advised Jews in a recent statement to consult a rabbi before taking their allegations to police.

But in the predominantly Chabad-Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, attitudes appear to be changing.

In July, a Lubavitch religious court issued a ruling that stated unequivocally that families who suspect abuse should inform the police.

“The Beis Din [religious court] has become increasingly aware of severe incidents of child abuse that have occurred recently,” stated the ruling, which was reposted on Crown Heights Watch, an advocacy website.

The Crown Heights religious court said that because many victims had remained silent out of a “fear of stigma” or a fear of violating Jewish law, they had perpetuated “an environment of abuse.” The rabbis insisted that the prohibitions against Jews using secular courts “do not apply in cases where there is evidence of abuse.”

Eli Cohen, executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, said the rabbis issued their ruling after they were “consulted by victims in a small number of incidents.”

Cohen said the rabbis “saw the need to go public with their ruling in case there were other victims that they did not know about who were still unsure about reporting abuse to authorities.”

Lani Santo, executive director of Footsteps, a not-for-profit organization that helps people who leave the ultra-Orthodox world, said her organization had noticed that its clients talk about abuse much more openly these days.

Santo said that last year, one-fifth of new Footsteps clients told of an episode of sexual abuse during their first interview with the group.

“People talk about it as a commonplace practice,” Santo said.

But in many cases, by the time a person reaches Footsteps, his or her abuse claim is too old to be prosecuted, Santo said.

Such was the case for Twersky, who is now 26. The statute of limitations has run out for pressing charges against the man he alleges abused him 14 years ago. But in December 2009 the same rabbi was arrested by the Brooklyn DA on charges of molesting another boy.

“He went on doing what he did for 15 years, with no one getting in his way, because he is the son of a very, very powerful man,” Twersky said.

N.J. rabbi arrested for allegedly molesting two Israeli boys


A rabbi in Teaneck, N.J. was arrested on charges of molesting two Israeli boys who had stayed at his home.

Rabbi Uzi Rivlin, 63, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in New Jersey state Superior Court in Hackensack to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was arrested Tuesday at his home in the suburban New York township.

Rivlin had hosted the two 13-year-old boys in his home as part of a program he founded that brings disadvantaged Israeli children to the United States for the summer. One boy stayed at his home in the summer of 2010 and one in 2009. The boys reported the abuse to Israeli police once they returned home.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Sex Crimes Unit, the Teaneck Police and the FBI were involved in the investigation, according to reports. The probe is continuing to determine if any other boys were molested.

Rivlin is being held in jail after being unable to raise the $175,000 bail. He was required to surrender his Israeli passport to the court; he said he does not have an American passport.

The rabbi’s attorney, Howard Simmons, said Rivlin is “perplexed and upset” by the accusations, The Record of Hackensack reported Wednesday.

“It was a complete, utter shock to him,” the paper quoted Simmons as saying after Rivlin was charged in court. “He just doesn’t understand why these children would make these allegations.

Rivlin founded the Scholarship Fund for the Advancement of Children in Israel, in which the disadvantaged children become pen pals with children from Rivlin’s religious school classes at Temple B’nai Abraham in Tarrytown, N.Y., according to the New Jersey Jewish Standard. The children then visit the homes of their pen pals or other hosts for the summer. The rabbi had arranged for several of the children to have bar and bat mitzvahs at New Jersey synagogues.

The rabbi’s wife and daughter also teach in the religious school. Rivlin suffered a stroke several months ago.

Rabbi gets maximum sentence in molestation case


A Brooklyn rabbi was given the maximum prison sentence for sexually assaulting a male teenager.

Rabbi Baruch Lebovits was sentenced to 10 years and eight months to 32 years in prison on Monday by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango, the New York Daily News reported. He received consecutive sentences on eight counts of sexual abuse.

Lebovits, the father of seven and grandfather of 24, declined to address the court before the sentence was pronounced. The rabbi, who owns a travel agency in Borough Park, was convicted early last month of sexually molesting the Jewish teen in 2004 and 2005. The victim, now 22, testified in court that the rabbi assaulted him in his car several times over a 10-month period, luring him into the vehicle with promises that he could drive, the Daily News reported.

The rabbi told authorities that he had been a victim of sexual abuse as a youngster, according to Lebovits’ probation report, which was read in court, the Daily News reported.

Lebovits is awaiting trial on charges of molesting two other minors.

Camp Counselor Accused of Molestation


A 35-year-old counselor at an Orthodox day camp was arrested last Sunday
after two preschool boys told their parents that the counselor had
sexually abused them.

David Schwartz, a counselor at Camp Ruach in Culver City, has been
charged with six felony counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with
minors under 14 and one misdemeanor of indecent exposure. He is awaiting arraignment at the Culver City jail, where he is being held for $300,000 bail, which was reduced from the original $1 million bail.

The boys, ages 4 and 5, came forward on Friday, Aug. 2, their last day this summer at Camp Ruach, a music and arts camp for Orthodox boys. The parents went to the police late Saturday night, after Shabbat, and took the children to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to be examined. Early Sunday, the LAPD passed the case to the Culver City Police Department, who arrested Schwartz, a married man with young children, outside of Congregation Anshe Emes on Robertson Boulevard near Pico Boulevard after morning services on Sunday.

Police are continuing the investigation to determine whether there are more victims, according to Lt. Dave Takenson of the Culver City Police Department.

The case is being handled by Stuart House, a cutting-edge facility at Santa Monica Hospital where the police, the district attorney, social workers and medical personnel all work together so the children are subjected to only one interview.

“We put our heart, soul and personal means into this camp with a dream that Jewish kids should be able to have Torah with music and art in their lives. The accusations are truly heartrending and devastating to all involved,” read a statement from Rabbi David and Rena Sudaley, who founded the camp last summer.

Schwartz, who worked at Camp Ruach last summer as well, has been a social studies teacher at the Yeshivat Yavneh middle school in Hancock Park for three years. Both camp and school officials say that until now, Schwartz has had a clean record with no complaints.

Rabbi Moshe Dear, headmaster of Yeshivat Yavneh, says that police are not conducting any investigations at Yavneh, since no one has come forward with any allegations against Schwartz. Yavneh has placed Schwartz on administrative leave.

“Our only interest is the security and safety of our children, and until these allegations are dealt with by the court system, we are doing to do what is in the best interest of our students,” Dear told The Journal.

Camp Ruach leases space from Ohr Eliyahu Academy in Culver City. While many of the campers come from Ohr Eliyahu, the school is not affiliated with the camp and has nothing to do with the camp or its staff.

The case comes just after Baruch Lanner, 52, a former day school principal in New Jersey, was found guilty June 27 of endangering the welfare of two girls at his school. Lanner was also convicted of aggravated criminal sexual contact and sexual contact against one of the girls. His case stirred controversy because Lanner worked for decades for the NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s youth group, and officials there are accused of covering up his misconduct.

Locally, the Orthodox community was rocked in December 2001 when Mordechai Yomtov, a teacher at Cheder Menachem, a Chabad school, plead guilty to continuous sexual abuse of three students.

Rabbi Zalman Uri, senior consultant for Orthodox schools at the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), says there is growing awareness of the problem in the day school world.

Uri says the principal’s council, a group run by the BJE, has met frequently with the Orthodox division for Jewish Family Services (JFS) to discuss how to spot problems and what to do once they occur.

This fall, the staff of JFS’s Orthodox division will begin training in the Steps to Safety program, a three-pronged approach to child abuse prevention to raise awareness among parents, teachers and students.

Sally Weber, director of Jewish community programs at JFS, says that many preschools and some non-Orthodox day schools have already hosted the program.

“We don’t believe children can be responsible for their own safety,” Weber says. “But we do believe there are self-assertion skills we can teach them that will make them less-desirable targets for perpetrators.”

JFS has also hired social worker Laurie Tragen-Boykoff as a child advocacy specialist to guide schools and parents in situations when abuse is suspected.

“I have been well-utilized in the Orthodox community,” she says. “We have made some really good inroads in terms of a willingness to entertain the idea that various forms of abuse do take place everywhere, regardless of religious affiliation.”

Tragen-Boykoff has also run awareness programs for faculty at day schools.

Dear says his faculty has participated in such workshops, and he is open to bringing programs to students and parents.

“Especially with the church scandals and scandals within our own community, as unfortunate as it is, it creates heightened awareness on the part of everyone involved,” he says.