N.Y. cantor avoids prison term for sexual assaults on nephew

Philadelphia Inquirer/September 20, 2006
By Keith Herbert

New York City cantor Howard Nevison avoided a prison sentence yesterday for sexually assaulting his young nephew during the 1990s in Lower Merion.

Montgomery County Court Judge Paul W. Tressler made certain, however, that Nevison realize how fortunate he was to avoid jail. To drive home his point, Tressler ordered Nevison to visit a New York prison yesterday so that he understands what lies ahead should he violate probation.

Nevison, the popular cantor at the 10,000-member Temple Emanu-El on Manhattan's Upper East Side, will be on probation for the next 12 years.

Tressler also ordered that Nevison have no contact with children under 12. Probation was a standard sentence under the state's sentencing guidelines for a person without a prior criminal offense, Tressler said.

Nevison, 65, had been "a perfect citizen" before the criminal case and posed little threat to the community, Tressler said.

The cantor had entered an "Alford plea" to five misdemeanor charges in June, meaning he admitted no guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors would likely win conviction at trial. He pleaded to charges of indecent assault, simple assault, terroristic threats, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child.

The more serious charge of aggravated indecent sexual intercourse, a felony, was dropped by prosecutors as part of the plea agreement.

Nevison's nephew, now 17, testified that his uncle was "a coward" who robbed him of his childhood trust and happiness.

"As a cantor in the Jewish religion, you should know that what you did will not sit well with God," the victim said to his uncle in court.

Nevison said that he had "compassion" for his nephew but never apologized in court for committing an assault.

Howard Nevison's brother Lawrence and another nephew, Stewart Nevison, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the victim. Lawrence Nevison was sentenced in 2000 to five to 15 years in state prison. Stewart Nevison was sentenced in 2002 to 111/2 to 23 months in prison.

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