'I Knew Something Bad Happened, but I Was Just Too Wasted'

A suspect in the hit-and-run accident that killed a 27-year-old woman and seriously injured her friend last year asked for her family's forgiveness in court yesterday, but maintained that he wasn't behind the wheel the night of the accident.

"I'm sorry for the death of the deceased, and I ask forgiveness," Shalom Yemini said during testimony yesterday.

Yemini is accused of running over Meital Aharonson with his sport utility vehicle while intoxicated on Tel Aviv's Ibn Gvirol Street in October.

He and his friend Shai Simon are charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crime, and of causing bodily harm to Aharonson's friend Mali Yazdi.

Yemini and Simon each claim that the other was driving on the night of the crash, and several months ago the State Prosecutor's took the unusual step of changing the indictment it had previously filed.

Prosecutor Haim Wismontsky had initially written that it was Yemini who was driving at the time of the accident, but after Simon's testimony, requested to change the indictment to indicate that it was in fact Simon behind the wheel. The court rejected the request, stating that it would rule on the question of who was driving during the case itself.

"We were driving on Ibn Gvirol," Yemini said during the testimony. "I wasn't asleep but kind of dozing off, leaning back, and suddenly there was a boom. A big boom, like in a terror attack. The car began swerving to the right, then the left. I was sure we had had an accident."

Yemini said Simon began screaming, "I hit them, I hit them," while holding his head in confusion.

"I've never seen anything like that. I've seen suicide bombings, and in the army our commander was killed right next to us, but not like that. It was hysteria. I realized that it was serious, but I couldn't comprehend what was really happening," Yemini said.

When asked why the two men continued driving and neither returned to the scene nor called for help, Yemini said, "I don't know, everything was jumbled. It's not a normal moment. I was completely wasted, and Shai started screaming like he was out of his mind. I just got out of there."

Yemini said it was the police who caused Simon to incriminate him. "The police are out to get me because I'm a friend of this guy or know that guy," he said, in reference to acquaintances allegedly involved in underground crime. Yemini also confirmed that his son is named Rico, after Rico Shirazi, the son of reputed crime kingpin Shai Shirazi.

"They ruined my life," Yemini said of the police.

Aharonson's mother Liora then yelled out, "They ruined my life," pointing to the suspects.

Yemini looked at her and said, "Not me, not me, darling. It wasn't I who killed her."