Former Iowa Hillel director’s trial for sex-abuse charges slated to start next week

In a hearing Tuesday, an attorney for David Weltman argued that the judge should not allow certain witness testimony during the jury trial, which will decide whether Weltman is guilty of a charge of sexually abusing a minor.

Sixth+District+Judge+Chad+Kepros+asks+questions+to+attorneys+during+a+motion+in+limine+hearing+on+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+25%2C+2020%2C+at+the+Johnson+County+Courthouse.+Weltman%2C+the+former+Iowa+Hillel+director%2C+is+accused+of+sexually+abusing+a+9-year-old+boy+in+early+2019+and+will+stand+trial+next+week.+

Emily Wangen

Sixth District Judge Chad Kepros asks questions to attorneys during a motion in limine hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at the Johnson County Courthouse. Weltman, the former Iowa Hillel director, is accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy in early 2019 and will stand trial next week.

Sarah Watson, Managing Editor

Updated:

The former Iowa Hillel director — who pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing a minor — appeared in court Tuesday for the last time before a jury trial will decide his case on March 3.

In Tuesday’s hearing, the defense for Illinois resident David Weltman, 29, argued that certain witness testimony — including that of Weltman’s ex-girlfriend and another minor — shouldn’t be used during the trial, because the testimony was irrelevant to deciding whether or not the crime occurred.

Weltman, the former director of the Iowa Hillel House in Iowa City, was charged Aug. 29 with second-degree sexual abuse after he was accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy during Hebrew lessons sometime in February or March 2019.

Weltman’s attorney Christopher Foster took issue with four of the state’s proposed witnesses. He argued that they offered evidence of alleged events that happened several months before or after the incident and pertained to the character of the defendant — not whether the specific crime occurred.

One of the witnesses Foster listed was Weltman’s ex-girlfriend Nilie Krausz. According to court documents, Weltman confided in her that he was sexually attracted to minors between the ages of 7 and 12. They began dating in September 2017 for around eight months. She also maintained that he told her he masturbated to foreign films depicting naked children, documents read.

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith argued that the evidence was important, because sex-abuse crimes don’t always have a clear start and end. Witness testimony would show the abuse was sexual in nature, they added.

“Child sex abuse is not a linear crime,” said Zimmermann Smith during the hearing. “It doesn’t happen at point ‘A’ and move on in a linear fashion to point ‘B’ when the crime is committed. This is a sort of a series of acts on the part of the defendant that indicate that he was preparing [the child] for this.”

Emily Wangen
Sixth District Judge Chad Kepros asks questions to attorneys during a motion in limine hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at the Johnson County Courthouse. Weltman, the former Iowa Hillel director, is accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy in early 2019 and will stand trial next week.

Zimmermann Smith said at the hearing that Krausz’s trial testimony would be limited to comments regarding Weltman’s statements of sexual attraction to minors.

Another witness Weltman’s defense took issue with an expert witness, who documents said would be called to testify on the general behaviors of children who’d been traumatized or abused. Zimmerman said the expert witness’ testimony would also be limited so the defense wouldn’t comment on specific behaviors of the alleged victim or speak to the minor’s credibility.

Zimmermann also said witness testimony could prove that Weltman’s contact with the alleged abuse victim was sexual in nature, and the value of the evidence is greater than any potential prejudice it may bring.

Another proposed state witness the defense asked the judge to withdraw traveled to Israel with Weltman between March 13-24, 2019, after the alleged abuse occurred.

Any statements or actions Weltman made during this trip, the defense argued, is irrelevant because it occurred after the alleged incident.

“Whether contact was made to satisfy the sexual desire is something that is determined by the fact-finding we may listen to, the testimony of various witnesses about what allegedly occurred,” Foster said during the hearing. “And I don’t see how the statements or information about alleged acts or statements or whatever might have occurred months after or months before is really relevant to that issue.”

Sixth District Judge Chad Kepros did not immediately rule on the defense’s motion Tuesday. The trial is set to begin March 3 in Johnson County.

Editor’s note: Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmerman Smith’s title has been updated to reflect her position. She is not a state defense attorney. The DI regrets the error.

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