The Civil Service Commission signed a plea bargain on Tuesday with the securities authority lawyer who improperly exchanged text messages with a judge in one of the criminal investigations involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Under the deal, Eran Shacham-Shavit will be reprimanded and his pay grade will be reduced for one year. Additionally, for the next nine months, he will no longer be legal advisor to the Israel Securities Authority’s investigations department, but merely a regular attorney in the department. After this nine-month period, he will be able to resume his old job, including representing the authority in court.
Shacham-Shavit and Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz exchanged WhatsApp messages in order to coordinate positions regarding the detention of four suspects in the Bezeq graft case, also known as Case 4000, in February.
The plea deal also allows Shacham-Shavit to request further clemency after a disciplinary court sentences the judge involved in the case, Poznanski-Katz. Last month, the special prosecutor in Poznanski-Katz’s case asked the disciplinary court to suspend her from the judiciary for one year and bar her from handling criminal cases for two years.
The disciplinary court has already convicted her in a plea bargain of conduct unbecoming a judge and violating the judicial code of ethics.
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Shacham-Shavit’s lawyer, Oded Savoray, said, “The evidence, including the full text of the WhatsApp correspondence, convinced the commission and the state prosecution that there was a significant gap between the way things were depicted in the media and what really happened.” He added that the plea deal was based on the understanding that Shacham-Shavit is “a dedicated, ethical public servant” who “pays special attention to suspects’ rights.”
The text messages at issue were exchanged in February, in advance of bail hearings for some of the suspects in the Bezeq case. This case involves suspicions that Netanyahu gave the telecommunications giant regulatory benefits worth millions in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his wife by Bezeq’s internet news site, Walla.
In one message, after telling Poznanski-Katz that he would recommend releasing two suspects the following day, Shacham-Shavit wrote, “Look surprised.” Poznanski-Katz responded, “I’m starting to work on a suitable expression of complete surprise.”
Later, Shacham-Shavit wrote that he would ask for two other suspects to be held for another three days, but “you can certainly, I mean certainly, give them two.” In response, Poznanski-Katz wrote, “You’re continuing to reveal everything to me and I’ll be forced to appear really, really, surprised.”
The full text of the exchange, however, revealed that they were preparing not for a court hearing, but for a preliminary meeting with police representatives, and were coordinating their positions not against the suspects, but against the police, who wanted the suspects held longer.
The suspects discussed in the exchange were Bezeq CEO Stella Handler, Bezeq vice president Amikam Shorer, Or Elovitch, the son of Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, and Shaul Elovitch’s wife, Iris. All four were arrested in February as part of the investigation of Case 4000.