The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday sentenced the former bodyguard of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to eight years in prison and two years on conditional release, after he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and several counts of attempted sexual assault.
Erez Efrati was convicted in a plea bargain after admitting to attacking a woman after his bachelor's party near the Tel Aviv Port last November.
Efrati followed his victim to her car in the Reading Power Station parking lot, near the port. When she got into the car and was preparing to start the engine, Efrati opened the door and dragged her out, toward the Yarkon river bank. He pinned her down and tore off her clothes, and tried to rape her while threatening and beating her.
A passerby noticed and intervened before he could rape her.
Efrati told the man the woman was his girlfriend, but she cried out for help and the man tried to pull Efrati off her. The two men started wrestling, and Efrati escaped a few minutes later, jumping into the river. He swam to the other side and tried to escape, but was captured by police shortly afterward.
With the victim's consent, the charge of aggravated attempted rape was dropped. The parties did not reach an agreement regarding the sentence, which could have been as much as 16 years in prison.
Earlier this week, during the sentencing arguments, the complainant and Efrati's fiancee testified in court. At the end of the hearing Efrati apologized to the victim.
"I would like to ask the young woman for forgiveness, from the bottom of my heart," Efrati told the judges, seeking the court's mercy. "I saw her testify, and it broke my heart. I never imagined finding myself convicted in court. I am trying to find genuine, simple words from the heart to express myself to this poor girl. My feelings of remorse and pity run very deep."
Earlier in the hearing the offender's cousin, Shani Klein-Danon, told the court "[Efrati] is one of the most moral people I know. He is one of the people most wiling to help and most pleasant to be with."
"A few weeks before the arrest he told me how happy he was with Vered [his fiancee], he spoke about the wedding and said he was waiting eagerly to begin his life with her," she said.
Prosecutor Ruth Erez told the court Efrati had first been charged with aggravated attempted sodomy, which carries a maximum 20-year penalty. This was replaced under the plea bargain by a lighter offense bearing a maximum 16-year sentence.
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