The judge presiding over the trial of a prominent attorney accused of bribery and money laundering, yesterday denied allegations that a man had approached him outside the court, at the defendant's behest, to discuss the case.
Haaretz reported yesterday that over the past few weeks police have been investigating whether Jacob Weinroth, one of Israel's leading attorneys, solicited a man named Ronen Bar Shira to speak with Tel Aviv District Court Judge Gilad Neuthal about the case and secretly record the conversation, in a bid to influence the trial's outcome.
Neuthal said yesterday, following the report in Haaretz, that he did not know Bar Shira and had never been contacted by him. The Courts Administration said neither the police nor anyone else had approached Neuthal, who learned of the entire affair from the Haaretz report.
Bar Shira is currently standing trial for fraudulently raising money for a campaign to free abducted soldier Gilad Shalit and help the Carmel fire victims. He told investigators from the police fraud squad that Weinroth had asked him to record a conversation with Neuthal because "a change in the course of the trial could save him [Weinroth]." Bar Shira volunteered to take a lie detector test and said he is willing to confront Weinroth about it as well.
Bar Shira's story was partially corroborated by his associate Aryeh Polasky, who told police he had attended a meeting between Weinroth and Bar Shira in the lobby of Tel Aviv's Renaissance Hotel last year, at which Bar Shira proposed to Weinroth that he would record a conversation with Neuthal.
Weinroth asked Bar Shira to bring him the tape, Polasky said.
Weinroth vehemently denied the allegations, and said that if Bar Shira had ever suggested such a thing, he would have reported it to the police.
Bar Shira's attorney David Ventura said yesterday that police should have confronted Weinroth and Bar Shira on the issue, and should have checked Bar Shira's story via polygraph, as he had suggested. Having failed to do this, the investigation into this matter is incomplete, Ventura said.
A representative of Weinroth's issued a statement saying Bar Shira had been charged with fraudulently receiving money from several people, including Weinroth.
"Bar Shira presented himself to Weinroth as an activist for the committee working to free Gilad Shalit and received, at his request, a donation of NIS 10,000," the source said. "Then he asked Weinroth to make a contribution and enlist other contributors to help the Carmel fire victims. Weinroth was suspicious of the man and called the committee to free Shalit, which led, among other things, to the police inquiry against Bar Shira. This clearly demonstrates Bar Shira's interest in fabricating the story against Weinroth."
"The police quickly concluded that Bar Shira's allegations were groundless," the representative added. "Even his attorney realized the man had a pathological personality and asked the court to have his client psychiatrically evaluated to see if he was fit to stand trial."
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