Ex-yeshiva teacher admits sex assault of US boy
TOMS RIVER, New Jersey — A former yeshiva teacher changed pleas Monday on the third day of his trial and admitted he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy he had met while working as a camp counselor.
Rabbi Yosef Kolko, 36, shifted uncomfortably on the stand in state court as he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sex assault, sexual assault and child endangerment. The abuse occurred from 2008 to early 2009 and ranged from fondling to oral sex.
The change in plea came after the prosecutor’s office was contacted Friday by a representative for a woman who said she had been a victim of Kolko and a man who said he had been a victim, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Laura Pierro said.
Prosecutors said they would not pursue the two other cases.
Kolko’s bail was revoked, and he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation before sentencing.
His attorney, Michael Bachner, said Kolko was “extremely remorseful,” apologizes to the victim and hopes after treatment “to return to society as a benefit to it.”
The victim’s father, also a rabbi, had initially wanted the case handled within Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community but decided in mid-2009 to take the case to authorities.
The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex-crime cases and is not naming the father to protect the son’s identity.
Testifying last week, the father said he went to prosecutors because he was unhappy with how the case was being handled and that Kolko was not following his recommendations and was still teaching.
“I was more concerned that he was still at his jobs,” the father said Thursday. “And I felt that children are being endangered.”
The victim’s father also acknowledged it is not common for members of the Orthodox community to take cases like this to law enforcement.
Prosecutors had said the family was ostracized by the community for pursuing the case in state court. They have since moved to Michigan.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said that in “securing justice for the victim,” prosecutors “have proven our ability to successfully intercede on their community’s behalf, affording them the same protections under the law we so tirelessly apply to all Ocean County’s citizens.”
“We will make every effort to assure this is a major step toward a continuing relationship with Ocean County’s religious communities,” he said.
Kolko faced a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and a $650,000 fine, but the judge said he will cap one count at 15 years and run sentences on any other counts concurrently.