The prosecution displayed a considerable amount of restraint this week in its arguments concerning former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's punishment, following his conviction for breach of trust. The state asked the court to sentence Olmert to six months of community work, a fine and probation.
The state could have asked for more. The prosecution attorneys said Olmert's acts carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison, considering his status as a senior minister at the time he committed the offense, and in light of the blatant conflict of interest in which he involved himself in making decisions regarding the clients of his friend and confidant, attorney Uri Messer.
The requested sentence demonstrates yet again how balanced the prosecution's stand concerning Olmert is, despite the attacks and allegations by the felon and his lawyers against the state prosecutor and the prosecution in general.
On the other hand, one must hope that prosecution's retraction of the request to rule that Olmert had committed a crime of moral turpitude is not a sign of laxity. Olmert's waiving the benefits he is entitled to as a former elected official does not eliminate the obligation to demand that his crime be characterized as an act of moral turpitude. Moral turpitude is not merely a technical catalyst to deny him those benefits. It is intended to keep a law-breaking elected official who is deemed morally tainted away from public service for a long time.
The Supreme Court has ruled before that moral turpitude is decided on the basis of each case's specific circumstances, but added that the turpitude issue should not be discussed as long as the defendant is not serving in or running for a concrete position. Breach of trust, even if it is not of the greatest magnitude, still merits the mark of moral turpitude when the perpetrator is a senior elected official like Olmert. The prosecution must now be on guard to raise the issue of moral turpitude if and when the time for this comes.
The prosecution must now decide whether to appeal Olmert's acquittal on charges that he illegally received "cash envelopes" from American businessman Morris Talansky and that he double billed trips abroad.
In view of Olmert's public repudiation after the verdict ("there were no envelopes" ) of the words he had heard minutes earlier from the judges, who ruled he had received thousands of dollars from Talansky, the prosecution must not display laxness in making this decision.
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