A sexual predator may be using a social networking Website to target Orthodox youth, according to an e-mail sent by Yeshiva University to parents and area yeshivot. Although further inquiries by this paper revealed that the predator is not an immediate threat, officials have used the incident as an opportunity to repeat general precautions about using the Internet.
The e-mail, dated April 10, was sent by Rabbi Hillel Davis, YU’s vice president for student life. It notes that a young man using the names David Newman and David Goldman has been befriending young Orthodox men and women on Facebook while claiming to be a New York University student. In addition, it says, the suspect has reportedly attempted to meet with young men to "coerce them into physical contact" and "threatens them if they rebuff his advances."
According to the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the individual in question is David Matthew Newman. He was convicted in California on Nov. 10, ‘005, for lewd and lascivious acts upon a child and sentenced to two years in prison and three years parole.
Newman has since established residency in New York and has a hearing scheduled on May 9 for local authorities to assess his risk as a sex offender. He has no current or pending New York County cases, a spokesperson for the DA’s office said. For further information, she pointed to the California Corrections and Rehabilitation department.
A spokesman for that department confirmed Newman’s incarceration and parole. He did not know of Facebook playing a role in the original charges. He was unaware of any current violations of Newman’s parole but said any complaints should be directed immediately to his office at (916) 445-5950.
Hedy Shulman, a spokesperson for YU, told this paper that the university first received the information about the possible predator from a dean at NYU, although Shulman did not know which dean had passed along the information. Calls to the NYU Office of Public Affairs were not returned.
While the exact origins of this e-mail remain unknown and Newman appears to pose no immediate threat, YU stands by its decision to send out its own e-mail as a precautionary measure.
"It was appropriate to notify students and staff that it might be a potential threat," Shulman said. "We did the responsible thing."
One version of the e-mail, which is now being distributed through area synagogues, says that Newman is posing as a student or alumnus of The Frisch School in Paramus.
Dr. Kalman Stein, principal of The Frisch School, told this paper earlier this month that he had received the warning but had not seen the part about the predator posing as a Frisch student or alumnus. Still, Stein warned his students to be on guard.
"I told the students there’s this fellow out there posing as a part of the community and getting on Facebook and they should know to be careful and not communicate with him in any way," Stein said.
All involved agreed that precautions are always warranted when children use the Internet, and they should be reinforced regularly.
"This is nothing new," Stein said. "All the schools have been talking to their kids about the dangers of the Internet [and the] general use of the Internet."