Hit-and-run Driver Gets 20 Years for Manslaughter

A Ramat Gan man who ran over two women while driving drunk in Tel Aviv and then fled the scene was sentenced to 20 years in prison yesterday.

Meital Aharonson, 27, was killed and Mali Yazdi seriously injured after the two were left for dead on Tel Aviv's Ibn Gvirol Street in October 2008.

"His driving was not only reckless; it was rash and criminal," the Tel Aviv District Court said of the driver, Shai Simon. "The court should hammer home the important message that human life is not cheap. People who drive after drinking alcohol should be sentenced like people who indiscriminately open fire with a weapon. The time has come to hand down tougher sentences in such cases."

The court also sentenced passenger Shalom Yemini, also from Ramat Gan, to five years in prison for leaving the scene and abandoning the victims. Despite some initial confusion over who was driving during the accident, the court found that Simon was the driver and acquitted Yemini of other charges.

The initial indictment against Simon and Yemini also included allegations of driving while intoxicated, destruction of evidence and other offenses. The indictment alleged that after going out for the evening to the Tel Aviv port, police stopped the SUV in which they were traveling to check whether they were driving drunk. However, the two drove off.

The indictment originally stated that though Simon appeared to have been driving when the police stopped them, Yemini was the driver who hit Aharonson and Yazdi. But in May 2009, after Simon testified in court, the prosecution asked for an amended indictment charging both defendants with driving at the time of the accident. Prosecutors said they had acted together.