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Suspect in Kidnaping Seeks Better Mental Facilities

Times Staff Writer

Alexander Gelman, a UC Irvine math professor charged with kidnaping a rabbi’s son, is apparently suffering from mental problems and is seeking a prison with better mental health services, according to his attorney.

Gelman, 40, of Santa Ana is accused of kidnaping Zalman Berkowitz from his Westminster home in April. Gelman, who was indicted May 13 by a federal grand jury, is in custody at Terminal Island federal prison.

The Berkowitz boy was found unharmed in Tijuana when Gelman was arrested after a minor traffic accident.

Michael Abzug, Gelman’s attorney, said that Gelman was under a great deal of stress. “His wife is on the East Coast. He is totally isolated,” Abzug said. U.S. District Judge Ferdinand Fernandez on Monday set a hearing for next Monday to consider Abzug’s request to move Gelman to a new prison. He also signed an order permitting Gelman’s rabbi to visit him in prison.

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Abzug declined to name the rabbi and refused to comment on whether he was the father of the boy that Gelman is charged with kidnaping. Gelman has been described by police as a family friend and member of Rabbi Aron D. Berkowitz’s Chabad of West Orange County congregation.


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