Goel Ratzon, a 64-year-old cult leader convicted of rape and other sex offenses against six women and girls, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday. Most of the women were minors at the time of the crimes; some were his own daughters.
Ratzon was indicted five years ago after a complaint by one of the 21 women he considered his wives. He fathered 38 children with them but was never officially married.
On Tuesday, The Tel Aviv District Court also ordered Ratzon to pay a total of 330,000 shekels ($87,600) to five of the victims. The sixth did not receive compensation because she did not testify and had received a home from Ratzon, the court ruled.
The court also ordered that one of the women be paid 140,000 shekels — a sum she had paid Ratzon, who had fabricated a debt he said he owed. For this transgression, Ratzon was convicted of fraud under aggravated circumstances.
The conviction handed down last month was for offenses including aggravated rape, sex offenses involving a family member, sodomy and indecent assault.
Ratzon made the women believe he was the savior of the world and had supernatural powers. He also alienated the women from their families and only allowed them to speak in public areas of their home.
Ratzon’s son Yigal said the sentence was excessive. “I had expected seven [years]; my dad also expected seven,” he said.
The defendant’s lawyer, Revital Kotzer, called it a harsh sentence that would be reviewed before other legal steps were considered. The prosecutor, Dalia Abramof, called the punishment appropriate.
Ratzon was acquitted of a slavery charge; Abramof said the prosecution had not yet decided whether to appeal. The slavery charge was the first of its kind in Israel; the crime entered the criminal code in 2006 as part of efforts to address human trafficking.
Since Ratzon’s indictment, two other defendants in different cases have been convicted of slavery.
Ratzon was arrested in January 2010, about a year after Channel 10 broadcast an exposé on the cult. According to the indictment, he considered himself the “exalted leader” with godlike powers. He treated the women as if they were his personal property; their sole role was to serve him, whether financially, sexually or otherwise.
The sentencing Tuesday was delayed several hours when Ratzon failed to arrive in court after what the prison service called a computer glitch that failed to trigger Ratzon’s transfer from a Be’er Sheva prison.
The sentencing was handed down by a panel of three judges headed by Judge Nurit Ahituv.