A rabbi accused of repeatedly raping and molesting a teenage boy has been ordered to testify at a civil trial after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a deposition.
Jury selection for Rabbi Daniel Greer’s trial in federal court in Hartford is scheduled to start Wednesday. Jurors could begin hearing evidence later in the day or Thursday.
Greer, 76, remains the principal at the Yeshiva of New Haven school. A former student at the Jewish boarding school, Eliyahu “Eli” Mirlis, now 29, is suing Greer and the school on allegations of sexual assault, infliction of emotional distress and other claims.
Mirlis, who attended the school from 2001 to 2005, also alleges in the lawsuit that Greer sexually abused at least one other male student. The Associated Press generally does not name people who allege sexual assault, but Mirlis wanted to come forward, his lawyer said.
Greer has denied the allegations and has not been criminally charged. New Haven police say they’re looking into a sexual assault complaint filed by Mirlis’ lawyer, Antonio Ponvert III.
Greer and his lawyers, David Grudberg and William Ward, did not return phone and email messages seeking comment.
According to court documents, Greer invoked his right against self-incrimination at a deposition last year. His lawyers asked a judge to bar Mirlis from calling Greer to the witness stand, but the request was denied.
“Parading Mr. Greer before the jury to repeatedly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege will only serve to paint him as ‘a criminal who has probably eluded justice’ in the eyes of the finders of fact, which will cause significant and irreparable prejudice in this case,” Grudberg and Ward wrote in a motion filed last month, adding that Greer also would invoke his Fifth Amendment right if called to testify.
Although Judge Michael P. Shea denied the request this month, he said Greer’s lawyers could object to specific questions to prevent Greer from having to repeatedly take the Fifth on the stand.
Ward has questioned why Mirlis came forward with the allegations years later and did not take the matter before a rabbinical arbitration court. He said the allegations have damaged Greer, his family and the good reputation he spent years building in the community.
Greer is a graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School who has testified before the state legislature several times on a variety of issues, including opposing same-sex unions in 2002 before the state approved same-sex marriage. He also is a former member of the New Haven police commissioners’ board and a past chairman of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency.
He also led efforts to improve New Haven’s Edgewood neighborhood.
Greer’s daughter was among a group of Orthodox Jewish students who sued Yale University in the late 1990s, claiming the school’s requirement that they live in coed dorms violated their constitutional rights. A federal judge disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit.