VIDEO / Olmert's lawyer: Police pressure shaped Talansky testimony
In third day of testimony, key witness says he felt police put a gun to his head during interrogation.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's defense attorneys on Sunday accused the police of trying to sway the testimony of the key witness in a corruption probe being waged against the premier, and suggested the suspicions be brought before the State Comptroller for review.
The prosecution's key witness, Jewish American businessman Morris Talansky, said Sunday stated Olmert's attorneys were trying to destroy his good name and his privacy and accused them of trying to "tear me apart" over things he said they know little about.
Talansky entered a third day of cross-examination by Olmert's defense team on Sunday in the corruption investigation against the prime minister dubbed the "cash envelopes" affair.
Olmert is suspected of having illicitly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Talansky over the course of 15 years.
One of Olmert's attorneys, Navot Tel-Tzur, said on Sunday that Talansky's testimony exposed a harsh picture of the police investigation and added that the case might even reach the state comptroller's office for review.
Tel-Tzur said that Sunday's cross-examination revealed to the public that Talansky has been a malleable witness, and that his testimony has been shaped by police and investigators.
State prosecutor Moshe Lador responded by saying that Talansky's testimony is not over yet and that the prosecution will not offer its impressions midway through the cross-examination.
Meanwhile, Talansky's attorney Jack Chen said that the case has gone nowhere even after the third day of testimony. When asked if an indictment could be served against Olmert based on Talanksy's testimony, Chen said that is unlikely, as his client has not testified that Olmert violated any laws.
Talansky said on Sunday that he felt the premier's attorneys were making him out to be an evil man, and at one point turned to the court and asked that they consider the effect of the investigation on his family in light of the fact that his life has now become public gossip.
Talansky's statement came in response to an article published by the Haaretz English edition Sunday, wherein Olmert's attorneys said they were pleased with the outcome of the cross-examination thus far, and that it was "becoming clear that Talansky is a pathological liar."
During the cross-examination, Olmert's attorneys confronted Talansky with various instances related to his relationship with the prime minister.
Evidence presented to Talansky revealed that he did not correctly recall details pertaining to Olmert's flight for a family vacation to Italy.
In his preliminary testimony in May, Talansky had claimed he withdrew $25,000 from his Jerusalem bank account to pay for the flight, but bank records put into evidence on Sunday showed no such transaction.
Talansky also said that as far as he remembers, Olmert had been mayor of Jerusalem when he gave him the $25,000, but the transaction was made in 2004, when Olmert no longer served in that position.
Eli Zohar, one of Olmert's defense attorneys, claimed that police put words in Talansky's mouth during the investigation.
Zohar accused Talansky of switching his story multiple times. "Why don't you say, 'I can't remember,'" asked Zohar. "They pushed a different version of events on you, and you accepted it because you wanted to go home."
Talansky defended himself by saying that what he said in his initial testimony is what he believed at the time. He felt that police and investigators didn't give him any time to think and he felt like someone had put a gun to his head and asked him to recall what had happened.
On Thursday, an associate of Olmert's said that Talansky demonstrated that "the people who coached him ahead of the cross-examination planted his answers for him."
State prosecutor Lador on Sunday voiced serious frustration over the behavior of Olmert's attorneys saying that their statements to the media and the way the case is being presented in the press are having a negative effect on Talansky and his ability to give accurate testimony under investigation, rendering his statements suspect.
"If a witness takes the stand and knows full well what the media and the public are expecting of him, it could have an effect on any of us, not only Mr. Talansky," Lador stated, adding that "we can not allow a situation where a witness is so exposed to what all of us, the attorneys and the prosecution are saying about him."
Lador said that such a public airing of the case hurts the ability of the courts to prosecute the case.
Talansky, who is in his seventies, told the court on Friday he did not have the energy to withstand the questioning past Sunday. Talansky added that the months-long process has been taxing and has hurt his business and family affairs.
Olmert's associates complained about the State Prosecutor's attempts to convince the Jerusalem District Court to allow Talansky to return to the U.S. and put the cross examination on hold until October. "Now that we are seeing that everything he is saying is complete fantasy, he wants to bolt, and the State Prosecutor's Office is helping him do just that," one associate said.
Talansky was quizzed about contributions he had passed on to Olmert during his Jerusalem mayoral campaigns in 1993 and 1998. "So far we have only laid the trap for Talansky," one source said. "In the next few days, he will fall into it."
Olmert has so far refrained from commenting on the core issues of the case, after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz demanded that he submit in advance any reference to the case for Mazuz's approval. Olmert rejected the stipulation.
"He wants to talk, but he is prevented because of the claim that he would be interfering with the investigation," an Olmert associate said. "It is very important for the prime minister to present his case to the public." The sources said that Olmert plans to reexamine the possibility of commenting on the affair once Talansky's cross-examination is over.
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