For the second time in the last few years, Ma'ariv publisher Ofer Nimrodi has been indicted on his own admission. The law enforcement system is used to the phenomenon of the prisoner - about four out of every five - who is not rehabilitated but returns to his old ways and is imprisoned again. A campaign to represent the criminal as a victim is also quite normal. What is unique about the plea bargain with Nimrodi is the social message that lies behind it: It's better to be wealthy and a newspaper owner. Wealth does not, of course, guarantee happiness, but it decreases the danger of punishment and increases the chances that the chief of staff and the prime minister will celebrate together with the criminal. This is not white collar crime - it's silver collar.
An ordinary citizen who is indicted more than once will blush in shame. A wealthy citizen, with direct and indirect control over the media, will exchange the public stockade for the pages of his private newspaper. "How fortunate we are," his hired reporters will rejoice; "our master is not a major criminal, as he was accused of being. He's only a petty criminal." They will try to convince us that the gap between these two exonerates the wrongdoer.
Only a naive spectator will believe that when an indictment is served the situation is frozen, and that the judge is like a historian of the Middle Ages who has to choose among the facts that can all be found in the past and to interpret their legal significance. In fact, only the state ceases to act. The defense, which is actually the offense, knows that what has been done can be undone, and how. It gets organized in a war room and storms every possible front - police, lawyers, judges, witnesses, the press. The situation continues and it is fluid. Police officers can suddenly, at a time that serves the defense, send memos that cast a shadow on their colleagues; witnesses collapse on the stand and are rushed to receive medical treatment; secret investigative details are leaked to the defense's war room; reporters for the accused's newspaper threaten the prosecutor's office. That is why the real battle for Nimrodi's detention went on until the end of the proceedings: Both sides estimated that from the moment he left detention, the defense would try to carry out a long drawn-out trial, "10 years," in order to exhaust the prosecution. For the wealthy, the equation is reversed: Money is time.
As in his first trial, Nimrodi avoided presenting his version under oath in court, and it was not discovered how he can be blackmailed for something he didn't do. Few honest citizens ever meet blackmailers and gangsters, secret eavesdroppers and hit men. Somehow, to Nimrodi it happens over and over again.
The Tel Aviv District Prosecutor's Office only seems to have lost. It beat State Prosecutor Edna Arbel. The district prosecution - for a combination of professional reasons and personal drives - did not want the case in the first place and did everything possible to make its prophecy come true. Finally, it succeeded in melting away Arbel's opposition to the deal, which will sentence Nimrodi to less than four years in prison. Arbel, one of the two positive figures in the affair, along with Deputy Police Commander Moshe Mizrahi, made two mistakes - she left the case in the district prosecutor's office instead of transferring it to another prosecutor's office, and she agreed to have it handled by only one judge. A rebellion by the local prosecution can cause a case to fail before it is presented - as happened in the Jerusalem district in the [former prime minister] Netanyahu-Amedi affair - or during proceedings; and cases such as Nimrodi's justify a court consisting of three judges.
Arbel and Mizrahi fought against Nimrodi's well-oiled and well-funded machine. Without them, the suspicions which brought about the third Nimrodi trial - indictments against his father Ya'akov Nimrodi - would not have been exposed and investigated. In this case, reporters for the Ma'ariv daily were also cited, but Arbel granted them active immunity. Freedom of the press was exploited for the sake of the freedom of a press baron - i.e. the shortening of Ofer Nimrodi's prison sentence.
Ultimate responsibility for the disgraceful deal, for its extent and for what preceded it lies with Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein. We know of criminals who try to frighten witnesses, prosecutors and judges. Rubinstein is apparently the only one among state prosecution heads worldwide who frightens himself - looks at the man reflected in the mirror and threatens that harm will come to his family. Ofer Nimrodi benefited partially from the general anarchy prevailing in the defeatist law enforcement system, but he should not be envied. To achieve the present result of his trial, he had to lie down once again with fleas, and he may get up with dogs.
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