March 28, 2024

This piece first appeared in the Forward.

In a stunning decision, a federal judge sentenced former Chabad of Poway rabbi Yisroel Goldstein to 14 months in prison for tax and wire fraud on Tuesday, overriding prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations of house arrest and providing a measure of relief to a community still reeling from a deadly shooting at the synagogue in 2019.

Federal prosecutors had recommended a sentence of eight months of home confinement and four years probation, seeking leniency for Goldstein due to his cooperation with investigators and for his leadership following the attack.

But Judge Cynthia Bashant, who has sentenced nearly a dozen defendants involved in Goldstein’s sprawling conspiracy, rejected that possibility from the outset.

“You dragged so many people down with you,” Bashant told Goldstein. “And so many of those people thought they were helping Chabad. But really it was just to benefit you, and I can’t ignore that fact.”

The judge also ordered Goldstein to pay approximately $2.8 million in restitution.

Though not all of Goldstein’s co-conspirators have been revealed, both the synagogue he led — which is now run by his sons — and Chabad Headquarters, which banished him from the movement, will look to the sentencing as the conclusion of an ugly saga that severely depleted the membership of the once-thriving community.

Many longtime members, still living in Poway, say their trust cannot be regained, and that they are…

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