TOMS RIVER – A former Orthodox Jewish camp counselor from Lakewood will remain in state prison after judges rejected his claims that he was coerced by his religious community to falsely admit he molested a youngster in his charge.
A two-judge panel on Wednesday refused to allow Yosef Kolko to take back his guilty plea to multiple sexual assault charges in a high-profile case that exposed how Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community handled molestation allegations.
Judges Harry G. Carroll and Thomas W. Sumners of the Appellate Division of Superior Court deemed meritless Kolko’s claims that he was coerced to plead guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child who had attended a Yeshiva summer camp where he once worked as a counselor.
As a result, Kolko, 39, of Lakewood will continue to serve a 15-year term in state prison, imposed in 2013 by Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson.
Kolko was on trial before Hodgson in May 2013 when, in the midst of the proceeding, he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a boy who had attended Yachad, a summer camp run by the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood, where Kolko had worked as a counselor.
Kolko also was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim School in Lakewood.
Before Kolko pleaded guilty to the charges, the victim had already testified that he was molested by Kolko, his former camp counselor, in 2009 and 2009, when he was 11 and 12 years old.