United States

Court Affirm 3 Rabbis' Conviction of Conspiring to Kidnap, Force Men to Divorce Wives

Three Orthodox rabbis who have been convicted of conspiring to kidnap and force Orthodox Jewish husbands to grand their wives permission to divorce lost their appeal case, authorities said.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the convictions in a ruling Friday.

An FBI investigation in 2013 found that Binaymin Stimler, Jay Goldstein, and Mendel Epstein were known for hiring "tough guys" to help kidnap and torture men into granting divorces to their wives in New Jersey and New York.

In Orthodox Jewish tradition, a woman cannot obtain a religious divorce until her husband provides her with a contract known as a "get." If she tries to leave her husband without a get, she will ostracized from that society.

An FBI agent posed as a woman who needed her husband to grant her a divorce contract and approached the rabbi trio.

Stimler was sentenced to 39 months incarceration, Goldstein to 96 months, and Epstein to 120 months.

On appeal, the three men argued that the prosecution

burdened their sincerely held religious

violated their religious beliefs, based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The court ruled that prosecuting under the federal kidnapping statute did not violate the law.

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