Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday that he emerged from the courtroom "with head held high." Olmert's satisfaction is understandable: The 27-page sentencing decision that followed his conviction for breach of trust in the Investments Center case opened a deep gulf between the description of the crime of which he was convicted and the light sentence he received: a one-year suspended sentence and a NIS 75,300 fine.
Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad discussed the depth of the ties between Olmert and his former law partner, attorney Uri Messer, at great length. Their "friendship was exceptional," she wrote, adding that "one must be careful not to treat the crime of breach of trust as a mere technical offense." She even admitted that "had it not been for the special circumstances of the case, there would have been grounds for including imprisonment, to be served through community service, as a component of the sentence."
One has to wonder whether those "special circumstances" - Olmert's decision to resign as prime minister before the indictment was filed and his acquittal in the two other cases covered by the indictment - truly legitimize such a flaccid sentence in a case of supreme public importance.
Olmert committed his breach of trust while occupying very senior positions: cabinet minister and vice prime minister. Doesn't this constitute grounds for giving him a stiffer sentence, and thereby preventing "the regrettable spread of conflicts of interest in the public service ... and the intolerable complacence with which this is viewed by certain public servants," as the judges put it?
Despite the campaign of intimidation that is being waged against the prosecution, it must appeal the acquittals Olmert received in the Talansky and Rishon Tours cases. In the Talansky case, the Supreme Court must decide whether Messer's management of a secret hoard of cash on Olmert's behalf - cash that Olmert sometimes received in envelopes and which wasn't recorded or monitored - is consistent with the possibility suggested by the district court, that these were "campaign funds."
In the Rishon Tours case, the Supreme Court must scrutinize the claim that Olmert was too preoccupied to understand the meaning of the documents he was shown, and that the double-billing of his overseas flights didn't constitute fraud.
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