Jewish Lawyer Banned after Telling Sex Abuse Victim not to Accuse a ‘fellow Yid’*
By Tom Cowie
Alex Lewenberg, 74, can’t practise law for 15 months and must take a legal ethics course after telling Jewish victim not to help police prosecute paedophile David Cyprys. Photo: Justin McManus
Criminal solicitor Alex Lewenberg has been banned from practising law for 15 months after telling a Jewish sexual abuse victim not to help police prosecute Yeshivah College paedophile David Cyprys.
The lawyer, who has represented a string of notorious clients including Billy “The Texan” Longley and Boris “The Black Diamond” Beljajev, must also take an ethics course before being reinstated.
The 74-year-old was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last month after the Legal Services Commissioner took action over two comments he admitted making in 2011.
On two occasions, once while in court for a bail hearing for Cyprys and later in a secretly recorded telephone conversation, Mr Lewenberg said that Jews shouldn’t help prosecute fellow Jews.
At the time Mr Lewenberg, a Russian-born Jew, was representing Cyprys, who was later jailed for the rape and sexual assault of young boys at Yeshivah College.
VCAT vice-president Judge Pamela Jenkins ordered on Tuesday that Mr Lewenberg be reprimanded for his behaviour and should have his practising certificate suspended for 15 months from June 1.
She also decreed that prior to returning to practice, Mr Lewenberg would also have to complete a course in legal ethics and professional responsibility.
Mr Lewenberg will also have to pay the costs Legal Services Commissioner of more than $55,000.
During a bail hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in September 2011, Mr Lewenberg turned to the father of Cyprys and said:
“It is most disappointing when a person who has nothing to do with the case and being a fellow Jew does wilfully seek to hinder another Jew in his defence of criminal charges.”
In a secretly recorded telephone call a month later Mr Lewenberg told sexual abuse victim AVB:
“I am not exactly delighted that another Yid would assist police against an accused, no matter whatever he is accused of and that is the reason why I was very disappointed,” Mr Lewenberg said.
“Because there is a tradition, if not a religious requirement, that you do not assist against Abraham.”
In handing down her orders, Judge Jenkins questioned whether Mr Lewenberg was remorseful for the comments after he apologised in a letter sent to AVB last week.
“Without underestimating the importance of such unreserved apology to AVB, it does nevertheless reflect poorly upon the Respondent’s genuine insight into the impact upon AVB, having left making such apology until now,” she wrote.
Mr Lewenberg admitted previous instances of professional misconduct as a solicitor, including being found guilty of four charges in 1989 which led to him being banned from practising for two years.
Judge Jenkins said she had taken Mr Lewenberg’s prior history into account, which included three instances of “very serious offending” and five instances where he faced disciplinary hearings.
Mr Lewenberg’s defence lawyers had asked that their client’s age be taken into account in any sanction, as he only had a few remaining years left in his career.
However Judge Jenkins said no such considerations would be made:
“The Respondent is a very experienced mature age practitioner who is already in the twilight years of his career,” she said.
“In the circumstances, it is not the function of a suitable sanction to ensure that he may yet return to practise.”
In delivering her initial finding of professional misconduct, Judge Jenkins said that Mr Lewenberg’s behaviour in suggesting the Jewish community should close ranks in the face of criminal prosecution was “truly shocking”.
She said that Mr Lewenberg’s use of words such as “moser” (a term for Jew who assists police) did not belong in the modern-day practise of law.