Public Safety

Former head of Hillel House sentenced to 25 years for molesting 9-year-old boy

Victim says he is proud he 'protected other children'

David Weltman (right) watches as Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann-Smith makes the state's opening sta
David Weltman (right) watches as Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann-Smith makes the state’s opening statement March 4 in Weltman’s trial at the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City. Weltman, 29, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Friday. During sentencing, he insisted on his innocence. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A 10-year-old boy said in court Friday that after he was molested last year by his former Hebrew teacher he would get so angry and also would feel “very sad and burst into tears at school.”

Talking to a counselor has helped, but the experience will always affect him, the boy said in a victim impact statement during the sentencing of David Weltman, 29, of Skokie, Ill.

“I’m proud I told my (mother) and protected other children,” the boy said.

A Johnson County jury in March convicted Weltman, the former director of Hillel House in Iowa City, a student Jewish organization, of second-degree sexual abuse.

During the trial, the boy testified that Weltman, while playing a game during a lesson last year, picked him up, took him into a storage room and molested him.

The abuse happened between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2019, at the Hillel House, 122 E. Market St. in Iowa City.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Chad Kepros, during phone and video conference, as allowed during the coronavirus health crisis, sentenced Weltman to 25 years in prison. Weltman will have to serve 70 percent of the sentence — more than 17 years — before being eligible for parole.

There were some technical issues with the video conference. Weltman, from the jail, could see everyone on the call but nobody could see him. All parties agreed to continue despite the issue.

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The boy’s parents, in separate impact statements, called their son a “hero” for telling them about the trauma he endured and for testifying in court.

His father said there has been a “dark cloud that consumes his days” for the last year because a “predator gained their friendship and trust” as he “groomed” the family.

The victim’s mother said Weltman “shattered their family” and broke each of them, but “we survived through strength, determination, love” and because of those who supported the family.

The mother said her son holds her accountable for his lack of protection. He was angry with her when he told her of the abuse. She said she will have to live with that.

Weltman claims innocence

Weltman, during the hearing, lashed out at the judge and prosecutors, saying he was innocent and reiterated his lawyer’s arguments before and after trial that there was wasn’t any evidence and the mandatory sentence was unjust. He said the “system failed him.”

Judge Kepros said he was sorry Weltman felt that way and that he went to “great lengths” to ensure Weltman had a fair trial.

Kepros said he had no discretion with the sentence but added that any sexual act against a child has serious consequences. Kepros also said Weltman will have to register as a sex offender for life, as well as serve a lifetime special sentence of parole because this is a sexual offense.

During Weltman’s trial, the boy said he didn’t immediately tell anyone about the abuse. At first, the boy, then 9, thought it was an accident but realized later after another incident it was intentional.

The boy testified about a trip to Israel with his sister and mother, which Weltman helped plan, on March 13 to 24, 2019. His mother and sister stayed at the home of Weltman’s friends, and the boy stayed, at least one night, with Weltman in another place.

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During this night away from his family, the boy said Weltman told him to take a shower, that Weltman came in to see if there were towels and looked at the boy in the shower.

The boy told his mother about the shower incident when they got back to Iowa.

Iowa Hillel, on the edge of the University of Iowa campus, works with university students and Jewish student organizations but is not part of the UI.

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

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