October 31, 2013
Accused as sex-abuser, Mendel Tevel appears in L.A. court
On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, Mendel Tevel appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court for the first time since his arrest two days earlier by Beverly Hills police acting on a warrant issued by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Tevel, a rabbi and youth worker, is accused of 11 counts of alleged sexual abuse in New York.
Handcuffed, wearing a standard blue jail suit and standing behind glass in a sealed-off section of a downtown courtroom, Tevel listened without expression as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba verified that he had signed a form waiving his right to oppose his extradition to the State of New York. His lawyer confirmed Tevel’s signed consent, giving New York law enforcement officials until Dec. 2 to retrieve Tevel from the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Tevel’s attorney, Dana Cole, asked the judge if the court would consider granting bail to Tevel based on two factors: Concern that it would be difficult for Tevel to maintain a healthy weight in county jail while observing strict kosher dietary restrictions, and the fact that Tevel has a clean record in California.
“Because of his very rigorous dietary restrictions it would be very difficult for him to maintain weight [and] health in county [jail],” Cole said.
Torrealba turned down the request, saying, “You’re not entitled to bail, and because of the very violent and serious nature of these offenses, it does appear that no bail is the most appropriate way to make sure that you get back to the state of New York to face these charges.”
Members of Tevel’s family were in the courtroom, including his wife, Bracha, and her father and Tevel’s father-in-law, Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, the founder and director of the JEM youth center in Beverly Hills, a Jewish community center where Tevel worked—and where police arrested him on the afternoon of Oct. 29.
Tevel is expected to be charged, pending his extradition to New York, with three counts of criminal sexual acts in the first degree, five counts of criminal sexual acts in the third degree and three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.
In an article in the Jewish Journal in August, four men alleged that they had been victims of Tevel as minors (ranging from ages 6 to 14 at the time of the alleged abuse).
They claimed Tevel performed acts that included spanking on bare skin, as well as sexually suggestive rubbing. The instances described by those who spoke with the Journal took place as early as around 1995 and as recently as around 2004.
On Oct. 30, one of those alleged victims, a Brooklyn resident, told the Journal, “I would like to see him going away forever.”
Because the indictment remains sealed, whether those charges include the four men who made accusations against him to the Journal is unclear.
Tevel is believed to have moved to Los Angeles in 2012, shortly after his marriage.
Lt. Lincoln Hoshino of the Beverly Hills Police Department said that when the department investigated Tevel in August, detectives concluded there had been “no complaints” of any criminal or inappropriate sexual acts with students at the JEM center.
Illulian would not comment when contacted in August, and did not respond to multiple calls this week to his cell phone. He also declined to speak with the Journal in court.
In an interview earlier in the week, Illulian told KABC-TV, “God will help that it will show that it’s all false and will clear up, and people will see while we [JEM] will still continue our good job for the community,”
Outside of the courthouse after the hearing, attorney Cole spoke with the media, saying Tevel is “anxious to go back to New York and start the process” he hopes will “clear his name.”
Tevel “absolutely denies the allegations—he believes that they are fabricated,” Cole said.
When asked why he raised the issue of kosher dietary restrictions when the county jail is known to provide kosher food, Cole responded, “They do provide kosher food, but Los Angeles county jail is a miserable environment. It’s very difficult for a very religious person with strict dietary restrictions to really survive there.
“He’ll have to do the best he can,” Cole said.