Prosecution Withdrawing Plea Bargain for Key Witness in Gay Center Murder

Prosecutors expected to drop charges against suspect Hagai Felician over the killings at Tel Aviv gay youth center in 2009.

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The state prosecution is withdrawing its plea agreement with the key witness in the deadly 2009 shooting at Tel Aviv’s Barnoar gay youth center, the prosecutor’s office announced yesterday. It is now expected to drop charges against the case’s prime suspect.

Sources in the State Prosecutor’s Office said that without the possibly false evidence provided by the witness, there is not enough evidence to charge Hagai Felician with being the gunman who killed a 16-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man and wounded dozens in the August 2009 shooting that shocked the LGBT community.

Officially, though, the prosecution says no decision has been made about the charges against Felician, whom police had suspected of being a hired gunman who opened fire only when he couldn’t find his original target.

Prosecutors told the witness Monday they were withdrawing the plea deal, pending a hearing before Nava Schiller, the acting prosecutor for the Tel Aviv district.

The announcement came after prosecutors received new evidence that made them suspect the witness – whose identity cannot be released because of a gag order – had provided false information that led to Felician’s indictment.

Prosecutors are now considering charging the witness with obstructing justice, fabricating evidence and giving false testimony.

The witness had his custody extended yesterday for three more days.

Referring to him as “the suspect,” Tel Aviv District Court Judge Shmuel Melamed, who extended the remand, said “cracks have been found in the evidence brought by the suspect, and the suspect is refusing to give explanations.”

The witness has not answered investigators’ questions since he was arrested two weeks ago.

Felician was released to house arrest last week.

Also last week, the State Prosecutor’s Office decided to continue investigating the case before making a final decision. If investigators find new evidence incriminating Felician, the prosecution can charge him with the shooting a second time.

The state witness in the Barnoar shooting in court, February 20, 2014.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Hagai Felician (in black shirt, center) in court.Credit: Moti Milrod