U.S. businessman Morris Talansky lashed out at the prime minister's lawyer during his third day of cross-examination in a corruption case yesterday, as Ehud Olmert's defense team tried to tear holes in Talansky's testimony and portray him as an unreliable witness.
In the latest court session, Olmert's attorneys played video clips from police interrogations that showed Talansky changing his account of sums he said he had given Olmert.
Asked to explain the discrepancies, Talansky said they stemmed from "a state of confusion and fear" during police questioning - and he insisted figures he had given originally had been accurate.
"I'd appreciate if you didn't call me a liar," Talansky told Olmert attorney Eli Zohar after the lawyer asked whether his testimony "is a truth or a lie."
Talansky previously told police he gave Olmert $150,000, much of it in cash-filled envelopes, before Olmert became prime minister in 2006. Both Olmert and Talansky have denied any wrongdoing.
The focus of yesterday's cross-examination was a $25,000 payment Talansky told police in May was meant to finance an Olmert family vacation to Italy and a $72,500 Talansky described as a donation to Olmert's election campaign.
Olmert's lawyers showed video clips from police interrogations showing Talansky changing his account of the sums he gave, even within the space of a single police session.
Zohar accused Talansky of telling police what they wanted to hear so they would stop intimidating him.
Talansky, who has complained in court several times about police browbeating, explained the discrepancies in his statements as an outgrowth of "a state of confusion and fear" and "a state of agitation."
"They created a total atmosphere of illogical thinking," said Talansky. His statements to police under those circumstances, he said, "were words, not things thought out."
Video clips also indicate confusion over when the vacation loan allegedly was given, and whether it was part of the $72,500 or a separate payment, as Talansky testified in May.
Talansky also changed his story on the stand. Under the pressure of cross-examination, Talansky added details and changed details, even if he said he wasn't certain about them.
The video clips shown in court depicted Talansky's interrogators questioning him about details he didn't necessarily remember. Zohar used the same tactic during the cross-examination. The atmosphere in the court was testy, with Talansky repeatedly raising his voice at Zohar, who was conducting the questioning.
At first Talansky told police that he drew $68,000 from his account and used some of that money to finance Olmert's Passover trip to Italy. But the interrogators said he took out the money in December, so Talansky said the trip must have been during Hanukkah. He said he gave Olmert $10,000 for the trip, gave some of the money to his children and grandchildren, and brought $30,000 back to the United States, declaring it at customs. But Talansky later said he gave Olmert $20,000, and then said the amount was $30,000.
One of Olmert's attorneys, Navot Tel-Tzur, said yesterday 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 yesterday'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 noted that Talansky's testimony was not over yet and that the prosecution will not offer its impressions midway through the cross-examination.
Meanwhile, Talansky's attorney, Jack Chen, said 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.
At one point, Talansky asked the court to consider the effect of the investigation on his family in light of the fact that his life has now become public gossip.
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