Charedi man regrets affair, denies rape

The jury did not return a verdict at Wood Green Crown Court

The jury did not return a verdict at Wood Green Crown Court

A Chasidic businessman charged with rape and indecent assault of a young woman may have to face a new trial in after a jury at Wood Green Crown Court failed to return a verdict.

Menachem Mendel Levy, a father of five aged 40, had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing the woman from the age of 14 until 20.

He argued that he had had a consensual two-year affair with the woman which began when she was 17.

A retrial date has been set for May next year after the jury were unable to reach a conclusion following more than two days of deliberation.

I was happy the affair was over. My marriage was good, business was good

Earlier in the week, the defendant admitted in court that he had an extramarital affair with a young Orthodox woman when she was a teenager, but denied raping or indecently assaulting her.

The father of five, who runs a building company in London, told Wood Green Crown Court: “I did not rape her, I did not sexually abuse her.”

Mr Levy said the affair he had had with the woman "was wrong, I was wrong,” he said. He was now “very much” in love, he said, with his wife Yael, who testified in his defence.

"I was happy the affair was over. My marriage was good, business was good."

Mr Levy claimed that the affair had begun after the woman had sent him suggestive text messages but had not progressed to intercourse until after she had returned from seminary abroad. Full sex had taken place “probably about 10” times, “it might have been a couple more, or a couple less”.

But eventually the relationship had “fizzled out” and was ended by the woman around eight years ago.

“She sent me a text saying she wanted it over,” he said. “It was at the right time… I was happy it was over. My marriage was good, my business was good.”

Subsequently, the woman’s father had contacted Mr Levy’s parents and others, accusing him of having sexually abused her, and he became aware of a “horrible pack of lies” circulating around him.

In one incident, he had run into the woman herself outside a kosher restaurant. She “came out and started to scream and shout,” he said. “She accused me of molesting her. I said, ‘You know it’s not true.’ She said, ‘It’s true’. I said we had a meaningful relationship. She said, ‘I was 14.’ I said, ‘You know that was not true.’”

Defence counsel Tania Griffiths said that no one regretted the affair more than Mr Levy. “Unfortunately, he has human frailties, but we all do,” she said.

He was a “charitable man”, she said, and was described as “a good man” by a leading Golders Green rabbi, Chaim Halpern, who gave evidence at the trial.

Prosecutor David Markham called Mr Levy a “predatory and controlling individual” who had exploited a “vulnerable” young woman.

But Ms Griffiths called the woman “smart” and “manipulative”, who in a letter some years after the end of their relationship had suggested Mr Levy pay £4,300 towards her therapy fees and contribute to her degree course fees of £3,500 a year.

Mr Levy, who had admitted to rabbis that he had had an affair, had followed their suggestions on how to make recompense.

He had made a charitable donation to the family of £1,500 through one rabbi, which the father had kept for the woman’s therapy fees, Ms Griffiths said.

When another rabbi — Rabbi Halpern — had suggested offering a further payment of £4,000, Mr Levy had been reluctant in case it were taken as an admission of the allegations being made by the family.

“The rabbi said ‘pay it’; he paid it,” she said. In the event, the money was rejected by the family.

Last updated: 11:42am, November 5 2012