Former bar mitzvah lessons teacher Israel Shapiro was found guilty of child sexual molestation and given five years probation last Monday morning, March 10, in an Alford plea entered before Judge John P. Miller in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
With an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to a crime and asserts innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could probably convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty.
Emotions ran high in the packed courtroom. Indeed, family members on both sides were saying tehillim (psalms) during most of the proceedings.
Mr. Shapiro, a resident of Olympia Avenue in Upper Park Heights, who works in a butcher shop, was also sentenced to perform 300 hours of community service and pay some $10,800 in restitution to one of the victims. In addition, he was ordered by the court to keep away from anyone under the age of 18, and to refrain from any computer interaction with someone under the age of 18.
The charges were brought to the court by the State’s Attorney’s Sex Offense Unit. The allegations were made by the plaintiffs dating back to 1987-88 and 1993-94.
Mr. Shapiro was arrested and charged in early December. He is the son of the late Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro, who was the center of a BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES investigation of alleged sexual molestations.
Mr. Shapiro, 58, dressed in a gray suit with black shoes and wearing a black yarmulke, listened attentively to the words of Judge Miller, and then the words of the two plaintiffs and the plaintiffs’ father.
“This is difficult for me,” one of the plaintiffs told the court. “This man destroyed my life in many ways.
“While he was teaching me my bar mitzvah lessons,” continued the plaintiff, “he held me in his lap and had his hand down my pants. I was always taught to look up to an adult, a teacher or a rabbi. I thought there was something wrong with me because of what was going on.”
The plaintiff went on to say that he would later learn that there were other boys who were allegedly molested by Mr. Shapiro. He also said that the process of pressing charges against Mr. Shapiro was difficult, that the system was “stacked against me.”
He then took a hit at area rabbis by saying that instead of taking on Mr. Shapiro’s transgressions, the rabbis took him away from teaching kids by placing him in the employ of a butcher shop.
“I will continue with this process,” said the plaintiff. “I am taking back the power he stole from me.”
The plaintiff, who was there with his wife and other family members, said that he felt the probation verdict was a “good deal for him. He deserved a lot more.”
He ended by facing Mr. Shapiro and saying directly to him, “I’m not going anywhere. You will never have any control over my life again.”
The plaintiff’s brother, who was also listed as a plaintiff in the case and a victim of Mr. Shapiro’s, looked at the defendant and said, “You are guilty. You are a disgusting man.”
The plaintiffs’ father said, “These events in our children’s lives were extremely stressful. They have taken a major toll on our family. I wish I wouldn’t have been so naive that this was happening. This is a serious matter, and the ramifications are still years ahead. It impacted both of my boys.”
Mr. Shapiro declined to answer any of the charges or comments made against him. Judge Miller said that the Alford plea is the same as a guilty plea, and then said, “This is a very serious matter. The court does not take this lightly.”
By law, Mr. Shapiro is not required to be on a state sexual molesters registry, based on when the crime occurred.
According to the State’s Attorney’s office, if the crime had occurred after 1995, he could possibly have been eligible to be listed on the registry.
The Shapiro Case File
• Israel Shapiro entered an Alford plea. This means he accepts the sentence, but does not admit guilt;
• He received five years suspended and five years supervised probation to child sexual abuse and third degree sexual offense;
• He must stay away from the victims;
• He cannot have any unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18;
• He must accept any treatment that Parole and Probation deems necessary;
• He cannot use the computer to contact directly or indirectly children under the age of 18;
• He must pay $180 a month restitution to one of the plaintiffs for five years;
• He must perform 300 hours of community service during the first two years of the probation. That service will be determined by Parole and Probation.