The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday postponed issuing sentence on Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto until May 12, after a particularly tense sentencing hearing. Pinto was convicted on April 14 on charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice in a plea bargain, after admitted to the bribery of Israel Police Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha.
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In making its summation before Judge Oded Mudrick, the prosecution castigated Pinto’s conduct, criticizing his “audacity” and “manipulations” and describing him as “a man who thought himself above the law.”
“The indictment to which the accused pleaded guilty describes an extensive range of serious and sophisticated acts carried out by a venerable figure, who sole purpose was to seriously and repeatedly disrupt the law enforcement system by cynically exploiting his spiritual status,” said prosecutor Racheli Hazan-Feldman.
“It’s hard to find a precedent for acts similar to these,” she added. “We’re talking about a case of unprecedented seriousness in terms of the attempt to undermine the activities of law enforcement. This was an attempt to bribe a senior police officer to obtain information about investigations in which the briber was questioned under caution. We’re talking about a very large bribe of $200,000.”
Hazan-Feldman added that if the case had gone to trial, the state would have asked for two to four years’ imprisonment for the bribery, and six to eight months for the obstruction of justice. But since the agreement set a limit of a year in prison, the prosecution is asking for that year, she said.
Defense attorney Eyal Rosovsky countered by quoting the state’s response in the High Court of Justice to a petition against the plea bargain, in which the state said the toughest sentence ever imposed for giving bribes was three and a half years in prison. Rosovsky also quoted State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth said, “Pinto couldn’t have expected a more severe punishment if he had stood trial. He never got anything.”
The prosecutor explained that the primary reason the state signed on the plea agreement was the information Pinto provided incriminating the former head of the elite police unit Lahav 433, Menashe Arviv, and his family.
“The agreement addressed a balance between bringing the accused to trial and on the other hand, the possibility of advancing and completing the investigation into Arviv’s case Hazan-Feldman said, adding that Pinto’s charitable works and health problems were considered in formulating the plea bargain.
“Pinto’s contribution and his personal circumstances were taken into account and are embodied in the state’s position. Our position is, even given this, is that the appropriate punishment is a year in prison, and not one day less. We’re talking about interfering with a police investigation and influencing witnesses to the extent they were prevented from telling the truth. The indictment points to insolence, a lack of reluctance and apathy toward to rule of law and the authorities, all to advance the personal interests of the accused and his associates,” she said.
Rosovsky asked the judge to go easy on Pinto because of his great contributions to society and to the needy. Rosovsky told Mudrick that he’s sure Mudrick had never encountered a man whose contributions were so great.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I really haven’t,” Mudrick replied, “because generally such people don’t commit crimes.”
Pinto spoke with the judge in a closed hearing, and according to both sides he expressed regret for his crimes. This came after Hazan-Feldman commented, “Until now, except for his admission in court, we haven’t heard any acceptance of responsibility. We’d hoped and expected that the accused would express regret for his actions, and that hope remains hanging for now.”