The New Jersey State Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal from prosecutors in Rabbi Osher Eisemann’s case to overturn Judge Joseph Paone’s ruling for a new trial.
A New Jersey appeals court on the first day of this past Shavuos upheld Judge Paone’s decision to throw out SCHI founder Rabbi Osher Eisemann’s convictions on money laundering and misconduct by a corporate official based on evidence that came to light following the conclusion of the trial.
The issue at hand was a QuickBooks entry which prosecutors used to convince a jury that Rabbi Eisemann had laundered money through SCHI.
Following the conclusion of the trial, this “evidence” was shown to be worthless when the bookkeeper who made the entry said it was a method to balance the books and didn’t reflect a loan made to Rabbi Eisemann. Such a loan, in fact, didn’t exist and SCHI actually owed Rabbi Eisemann more than $300,000.
At the time of the trial, the bookkeeper’s identity was known to the prosecution but not the defense. Prosecutors never even spoke to the bookkeeper to ascertain whether the QuickBooks entry reflected a debt or not – they just used the entry to further their own agenda of throwing a high-profile figure into prison.
Even worse, the prosecutors didn’t turn over the identity of the bookkeeper to the defense team – despite being asked for it – making it impossible for the defense to call her as a witness to show that Rabbi Eisemann did nothing wrong.
In light of the new exculpatory evidence and the prosecution’s hiding of that evidence, Judge Paone threw out the convictions and ordered a new trial. The state appealed, arguing that the evidence wasn’t new and that it had no obligation to turn it over to the defense team. The prosecution asserted that Judge Paone abused his discretion in ordering a new trial and that Rabbi Eisemann should go straight to the sentencing phase, where he could have been imprisoned for up to 20 years.
The appeals court unanimously disagreed, writing in its decision that the new evidence clearly showed that there was no loan made to Rabbi Eisemann. If no loan existed, he could not have committed the crimes prosecutors claim he did.
The appeals court judges also wrote that the prosecution was clearly in violation of the Brady Act, which requires all relevant evidence to be turned over to the defense. Instead, they hid that evidence, and got a faulty conviction out of it.
Prosecutors appealed to the state’s Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to salvage their disgraceful case against Rabbi Eisemann, but New Jersey’s top court has declined to hear it, allowing the appeals court’s ruling upholding a retrial order to stand.
Prosecutors now must make the decision whether to attempt to prosecute Rabbi Eisemann again in a new trial – this time will all the evidence clearly showing that the SCHI founder had committed no wrongdoing.
While this is likely the end of the road for prosecutors bent on sending an innocent man to prison, it isn’t yet known whether they will attempt to retry him. Please continue to daven for Osher ben Chana Frumet.