Former television star Dudu Topaz was yesterday charged with hiring thugs to assault top media figures he blamed for keeping him off the air.
Topaz was indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court on charges including assault and battery, conspiracy to commit a crime, extortion and obstruction of justice. He was ordered to remain in custody for the duration of the proceedings.
Topaz's neighbor and alleged accomplice Daniel Zenko, as well as Suleiman Hiadra, who was allegedly hired by the two to carry out at least one of the attacks, were also charged yesterday.
According to the indictment Topaz, 62, sought to take revenge on media executives and others he blamed for his waning career and for preventing him from making a comeback. He was charged with contracting with middlemen to hire assailants, including Hiadra, to carry out the assaults.
The charge sheet describes Topaz as a "master criminal, a dangerous, violent man who for seven months carefully planned his revenge on the media, only because he felt his career was ebbing."
Topaz showed no compassion toward his victims, the indictment says, and continued sending one of his victims, Keshet cable television CEO Avi Nir, hate mail and threats after the severe assault on him. Topaz is charged with paying Ofir Sasportas NIS 13,000 to arrange the attack on Nir.
Sasportas allegedly hired brothers Yanai and Noam Amawi, who on November 24 beat Nir with clubs near his north Tel Aviv home, causing serious injuries.
Topaz later asked Zenko to hire people to attack his former agent, Boaz Ben Zion, according to the indictment, for NIS 12,000. The two suspects drove to Ben Zion's house, where Topaz pointed out the victim's Mercedes to Zenko.
Zenko is charged with hiring Roman Aleyev and Mohammed Yunis, who attacked Ben Zion on January 18. The two alleged assailants are still at large.
Topaz and Zenko told police that they had told the thugs to "slap Ben Zion around," according to the indictment.
Topaz allegedly instructed Zenko to have Ben Zion attacked again after deciding that the first beating was not harsh enough.
Television producer Shira Margalit was brutally punched in the face in the presence of her young son by two men allegedly hired by Topaz. "The attack caused her and her son physical and emotional injury," the indictment said. "Topaz even planned to attack [Yisrael Hayom newspaper editor] Amos Regev just because he refused to publish opinion pieces written by Topaz."
Topaz was already a suspect in some of the assaults when police intercepted a text message he sent asking Zenko to put off "the additional renovation." Zenko replied that, "When you want to renovate I have the best contractor." Zenko the called Hiadra and told him to "put off the renovation." Topaz and Zenko confessed to police that they were talking about attacking Regev.
Topaz told police he had planned to send threatening letters to three additional people and might have arranged for them to be assaulted as well, if not for his arrest. Topaz and Zenko also talked about attacking Topaz's ex-wife and her husband, according to the indictment.
Topaz allegedly began sending letters to Nir, under a false name, three weeks after the attack on him in an attempt to obstruct the investigation. The letters were written by Topaz's housekeeper, who wore plastic gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, and said the sender knew who was behind the attack.
Nir received a letter on February 25 in which he was asked to pay NIS 250,000 for information about his attackers or risk suffering "another traumatic event in the coming weeks."
In a letter sent a month later, Topaz demanded, again under a false name, that Nir stop "Kochav Nolad" (the Israeli version of "American Idol") in exchange for information about his attackers.
At around the same time, according to the indictment, Topaz told Zenko to arrange the second attack on Ben Zion. Zenko allegedly hired another man to recruit Aleyev and Yunis for the job, but police officers arrested the two near Ben Zion's home before they could carry it out.
Topaz allegedly paid Zenko NIS 20,000 in connection with this plan, half for the abortive attack and half for the assailants' legal fees.
Topaz is charged with paying Zenko NIS 30,000 for arranging the attack on Shira Margalit, allegedly giving her home address to Zenko, who passed it on to Hiadra with the instruction to give her "two slaps that would send her to the hospital."
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