Jury out on 'cocaine and sex' rabbi

By Jonathan Kalmus, November 24, 2009
Rabbi Baruch Chalomish

Rabbi Baruch Chalomish

The jury remains out at Manchester Crown Court after nearly five hours of deliberating whether Rabbi Baruch Chalomish and his co-defendent, Nasir Abbas, were indeed running commercial cocaine parties.

Summing up the case, Judge Michael Henshell directed the jury of five men and seven women to return only a unanimous verdict on each defendant's guilt over each count of possession of a controlled drug and possession with intent to supply cocaine.

Focusing on the character evidence submitted in court, he said Rabbi Chalomish was a man "devoted to his religious studies and practices"," committed to his late wife, "who became emotional every time she was mentioned in court.

"His good character supports that you believe him," said the judge, who advised the jurors that a defendant does not have to prove his innocence, the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

But the judge also said the rabbi had led a "secret life" of call girls and association with drug dealers even though it was completely contrary to the attitudes of his strictly Orthodox community.

He also repeated a claim made earlier in the case that Rabbi Chalomish had frightened off his co-defendent from attending court by a supposed death threat, but it was an allegation which the judge said was "not substantiated by evidence."

Speaking of Mr Abbas, Judge Henshell said he had "voluntarily" avoided his court case, and detailed his previous convictions for assault in 1985 and 10 years in prison for dealing in heroin, being released only a few years ago. Nevertheless, he said, his bad character did not prove Abbas was a drug dealer in this case.

The jury was reminded of text messages about drug deals and threats sent from Mr Abbas' mobile telephone and directed that "the texts are capable of showing Nasir Abbas was dealing in drugs."

If a verdict is not reached early tomorrow morning, the judge may direct that a majority verdict should be returned.

The case continues.

Last updated: 10:04am, November 25 2009