Religious school teacher gets 7 years for sexual assault

Aharon Shlomo Lisson is sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting three brothers from 2009-2014; Lisson denies all charges and is planning to appeal.

Religious school teacher gets 7 years for sexual assault
Aharon Shlomo Lisson in court Tuesday

A teacher at a religious school—who was convicted of indecent assault on his students—was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison and two years of probation.

Aharon Shlomo Lisson, 34, from Beitar Illit, was a teacher at an ultra-Orthodox middle school in the city. In December, he was convicted of sexually assaulting three brothers aged 13-15.

The teenagers' mother left the courtroom in tears after the verdict, saying, "Justice has finally been served, but no punishment can give my children back their joy of life and their lost childhood and teen years."

According to the indictment, from 2009 to 2014, Lisson would invite the teens to his home under the pretence he needed their help with something and sexually assaulted them. He also attacked one of the teenagers twice while he was in the mikveh (ritual bath).

In addition to his prison sentence, the court ordered Lisson to pay the brothers damages: the oldest brother will receive NIS 150,000 in damages, the second NIS 100,000 and the youngest NIS 80,000.

Yifat Pinhasi Nevo of the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office said the verdict "expresses the severity of the offenses the defendant committed when he hurt his students for years at school, the mikveh, the synagogue and other places. Instead of serving as an example and role model for his students, instead of supporting them and protecting them, the defendant abused his status and position, taking advantage of the students' innocence, to sexually assault them since they were 13."

In the three years since the teacher was indicted, the family was humiliated, boycotted and excommunicated by their community, with rabbis repeatedly choosing to defend and stand by the teacher.

"I stand by our decision to complain and launch this war for justice, even if it wasn't simple," the victims' mother told Ynet. "I hope this gives other children the strength to speak up and know there is someone who protects them, listens to them and believes them."
  
She lamented the fact that the trial dragged on for a long period of time, saying it hurt the children's treatment and rehabilitation. "Instead of focusing on treatment and healing, they went to war for justice and truth. Lisson continued abusing the children during the trial when he tried to trample on them, denying his actions," she said.

The mother added she was happy other children who suffered at Lisson's hands could now "breathe easy due to the courage and bravery of my children."

The defendant's lawyer, Ariel Attari, claimed the complainants' were "a greedy family who did this entire thing merely to fund the expansion of their home. We presented countless pieces of evidence proving that family members lied again and again." He said Lisson intends to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu), who chairs the Knesset's Special Committee for the Rights of the Child, criticized what she dubbed an "absurd sentence."

"Once again, the children of Israel do not get the required protection, especially from the courts. This punishment... does not reflect the severity of his sick actions. The defendant was a teacher, who had the trust of the children. It's time the courts punish those who harm children and other helpless people to the full extent of the law."

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