A Safed court recently dismissed a plea bargain in which the defendant confessed to having threatened his neighbor because the judge suspected the confession wasn't true.
The court then proceeded to hear the evidence, and on Tuesday, it acquitted the defendant.
Yaron Sananes, 39, of Moshav Safsufa in the Upper Galilee, was charged in July with threatening to kill his neighbor and cursing her because she told his brother he had stolen NIS 500 from her house. The neighbor complained to the Safed police, who arrested Sananes.
After spending 25 days under house arrest, Sananes accepted a plea bargain in which he confessed to the charges. But alongside his confession, he wrote, "what they attributed to me isn't true."
His attorney then argued that Sananes should not be sentenced to prison for a longer term than he had already spent in house arrest.
Safed Magistrate's Court Judge Uri Goldkorn said that in his view, "this is not a sincere and true confession, but a statement intended solely to end the house arrest restrictions and to avoid the risk of receiving a prison sentence longer than 25 days."
After noting that the court was not obliged to accept the confession, Goldkorn said he views the defendant as having denied the acts attributed to him. He therefore decided to hear the evidence in the case.
On Tuesday, he acquitted Sananes, saying the defendant's harsh words to his neighbor could have been merely an expression of anger, since the prosecution failed to prove they were meant to intimidate her.
"This is a highly unusual step, one I have not encountered before," said Benny Harel, the public defender who represented Sananes. "Sananes told the magistrate that he admits the charges even though he did not commit the acts he was charged with, without understanding the implications. He was surprised the magistrate did not accept his confession."
Another senior attorney said he was also surprised. "Usually the court presses to close cases with plea bargains to save time," he said. "In this case, the judge displayed magnanimity and took more work on himself to bring justice to light."
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