A News in Brief in Wednesday’s Law Journal begins: “An Orthodox Jewish man from Brooklyn has pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of sexual abuse, capping a high-profile case.”
I am offended by this unnecessary mention of the defendant’s religion and ethnicity. Would you have printed something like “A Roman Catholic Irish man from Brooklyn has pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of sexual abuse, capping a high-profile case” if the perpetrator had been an Irish American of the Roman Catholic faith? I think not. Indeed, I know not. Would you have reported that an “African American Baptist man” pleaded guilty to such crimes. Again, no.
Had this article been reported in the context of the alleged or actual scandals within the Orthodox Jewish community over the reporting vel non of sex crimes, or the influence used or not used by that community with the former Kings County district attorney, or that the district attorney’s dereliction of duty or not, or even to show that the new district attorney is different than the former one because he indeed does prosecute folks from that community, political consequences be damned, then such a lede to your story would have been not only appropriate, but proper journalism.
Since it was not reported in that context, but rather as a regular crime story, the convicted defendant’s religion and ethnicity are totally irrelevant. It shows prejudice to print it that way, and it should not happen again.
Alan S. Axelrod
The author is an attorney in New York.