Aryeh Cohen, the former Kollel Minneapolis rabbi who was charged in a sting operation in July, was sentenced Wednesday, Jan. 16. According to Cohen’s attorney, Joseph Friedberg, the judge stayed the imposition of sentence and placed Cohen on probation for 3 years. If the term of probation is completed successfully, the felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor.
The judge sentenced Cohen to 2 days in jail but got credit for time served because Cohen already served them. He also faces three years of supervised probation, 150 hours of community service, and $1,286 in fines and fees.
“We both think the judge did it very fairly,” Friedberg said. “It’s a very adequate resolution.”
Rabbi Avigdor Goldberger, the CEO of the Kollel – where Cohen held the role of director of community outreach – said that Cohen will not be doing his community service there.
“The answer is no,” he said. “He won’t be welcome back. We cut ties with him.”
Friedberg said that Cohen has registered under the state’s Predatory Offender Act. He also maintains that Cohen isn’t a threat to children.
“His predilection has been toward adult males,” Friedberg said. “The man wasn’t looking for children. He was looking for male companionship. He’s been analyzed and reanalyzed. He’s in therapy and his therapist feels he’s no threat. In order to make sure he wasn’t hiding those feelings, he was polygraphed by an experienced person who does this for the state, who said [Cohen] passed.”
Goldberger said at the time the charges were announced that no one at the Kollel knew about the incident until the charges were filed. The Kollel administration said in a statement at the time the charges became public that “Immediately upon learning of this matter, the Kollel relieved Rabbi Cohen of his duties and he is no longer participating in any Kollel activities.”
Cohen was charged on July 31 with two felonies: one count to “solicit child or believe to be a child through electronic communication to engage in sexual conduct,” and one count of “engage in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with child.” According to the court records, the first charge was dismissed and the sentencing relates to the second charge; Friedberg said that was done as part of the plea agreement, but if it went to a trial, he can only be sentenced for one of charges because the offenses occurred at the same time.
The crimes relate to his arrest in February, 2018, in North St. Paul, on the charge of pursuing sex with an underage boy; he was one of 17 charged in the sting that targeted people through online advertisements prior to the Super Bowl that was hosted in Minneapolis.
The sting began on Jan. 25, 2018 and continued throughout the week of Jan. 29, 2018, according to the Statement of Probable Cause in the charge. It was conducted by the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, with assistance from multiple special agents from Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), and the North St. Paul Police Department. Throughout the operation, BCA agents and members of the MNHITF posted online advertisements and profiles of young males and females, indicating they were seeking companionship. They also responded to advertisements placed by others on various websites known to seek illicit sexual relationships.