Public Safety

10-year-old boy testifies to sexual abuse during religion lesson in Iowa City

Former director of Jewish student organization on trial this week, accused of second-degree sexual abuse

David Weltman stands as the jury enters the courtroom March 4 during his trial at the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa
David Weltman stands as the jury enters the courtroom March 4 during his trial at the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City. Weltman is accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy during a Hebrew lesson at Iowa Hillel, where Weltman was the director of the student Jewish organization. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — A 10-year-old boy testified Wednesday he was sure his former Hebrew teacher, while playing a game during a lesson last year, took him into a storage room and molested him.

That teacher, David M. Weltman, 29, now of Skokie, Ill., is on trial this week in Johnson County District Court, charged with second-degree sexual abuse of the boy between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2019 at the Hillel House, 122 E. Market St. in Iowa City. Weltman is a former director at the house, a Jewish student organization.

In his testimony, the boy said he didn’t immediately tell anyone about the abuse. At first, the boy, then 9 years old, thought it was an accident but realized later it wasn’t when another incident happened with Weltman.

The boy also told the jury about a trip to Israel with his sister and mother, which Weltman helped plan, on March 13 to 24, 2019. The trip was for his sister’s bat mitzvah, when she turned 13, and he and Weltman were included on the trip.

The boy said he didn’t stay with his mother the entire time. His mother and sister stayed at the home of Weltman’s friends and he stayed, at least one night, with Weltman in another place.

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann-Smith asked if he would rather have stayed with his mother and he said yes. There was room where his mother and sister stayed, he said.

During this night away from his family, the boy said Weltman told him to take a shower, which the boy hadn’t planned. He said Weltman turned on the shower for him, and he had to take off his clothes. While in the shower, Weltman came in to see if there were towels and looked at the boy in the shower.

Zimmermann-Smith asked if that made him “feel uncomfortable,” and the boy said it did.

The boy told his mother about the shower incident when they got back to Iowa and a few days later told her what had happened during the Hebrew lesson.

The boy said he finally told his mother after Weltman was playing a game with him during the Israel trip. Weltman put him on his lap and was holding him tight and wouldn’t let him down. The boy said this had happened before during a Hebrew lesson.

The child said he didn’t like it and started crying and yelling. After the incidents in Israel, he said he realized the earlier inappropriate touching wasn’t an accident.

He told his mother, and she reported it to police.

Iowa City police Detective Gabe Cook testified those reporting sexual abuse typically don’t make complaints immediately after an incident. He said DNA evidence is not commonly found in sexual assaults.

Cook said the boy’s mother called police April 3, 2019. Cook said he interviewed the mother the next day and set up a time to interview Weltman, but that meeting never happened.

During his opening statement, Christopher Foster, Weltman’s lawyer, asked the jury to think about why the prosecutor has asked the mother to testify about the Israel trip, which took place after the alleged abuse. Foster said that was because nothing happened then and the prosecution has no proof.

Another child witness who was at Hillel House with the 9-year-old last year, also taking a Hebrew lesson with Weltman, will testify he didn’t see anything happen that day, Foster said.

Iowa Hillel, on the edge of the University of Iowa campus, works with university students and Jewish student organizations but is not a part of the UI. Weltman met annually with UI administrators as part of the Campus Ministries leadership group, UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said last year after Weltman was charged.

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Weltman joined Hillel in July 2016. He was placed on administrative leave when the organization learned about the allegations and then terminated by Iowa Hillel, according to officials.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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