A former Jerusalem District police commander was convicted Tuesday of committing an indecent act against a lower-ranking female officer but acquitted on other charges related to his consensual relations with five female officers. Maj. Gen. (ret.) Nisso Shaham was convicted in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
The court ruled that his conduct did not constitute a breach of trust and did not rise to the level of a criminal offense. Shaham was also acquitted of charges of sexual harassment and indecent acts against two other female police officers. He was charged in October 2013 with offenses relating to sexual relationships he conducted with five female junior officers and with later making decisions affecting their careers, including transfers within the force and tuition reimbursement.
This is the first case in which a police officer was charged with breach of trust under these circumstances and the case was considered the flagship case of the unit in the Justice Ministry that investigates police misconduct.
However, Judge Beni Sagi, who was since promoted to the magistrate’s court, ruled that Shaham’s actions were not criminal: “Despite the conflict of interests between Shaham and the female police officers, his decisions were germane and professional, and no dependence nor exploitation has been proven.”
Shaham was originally charged with two counts of indecent acts, for allegedly kissing two officers without their consent.
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According to the indictment, when Shaham was commander of the Jerusalem District, he drove to a point near the officer’s home to say goodbye to her, as he was going abroad and she was being transferred. The two drove to the parking lot of a nearby school, where he kissed her. The officer pushed him away and got out of the car. Shaham claimed that he had mistakenly thought the woman wanted the kiss, but the judge ruled that “his mistake was not sincere.” According to the judge, “the accused is not a high school boy. He is a senior commander who chooses to kiss a female junior officer without choosing to ascertain whether she wanted to.”
Shaham was also acquitted of sexual harassment for sending an officer three text messages asking her the color of her underwear. The judge said it was proved that Shaham sent one such message — to which the officer responded that she was dressed “like a nun” — but added that “one text message is not enough for a conviction of sexual harassment.”
Sagi wrote in his verdict that the “Nisso Shaham affair” began on suspicion of “a series of sexual offenses by a police major general” and had been reported in the media as such. “But as the investigation proceeded and after the policewomen in the indictment and others were questioned, the evidentiary picture turned out to be completely different and the ‘dimension of sexual coercion’ in the accused actions did not hold a central place at all — not in terms of extent and certainly not severe in the hierarchy of sexual offenses.”
In response to the verdict, Shaham said the accusations were “bizarre” and untrue, and that “the mountain has produced a molehill.” He added that he would continue to fight the single conviction.
The Justice Ministry unit investigating the case declined to say whether it would appeal the verdict.
Shaham’s trial went on for four and a half years, during which the case was sent for mediation three times. During mediation, Shaham was offered an agreement similar to the one he was offered before the indictment was served — conviction for breach of trust only, dropping all charges of sexual offenses. Shaham turned down the offer, claiming that his was a case of selective enforcement and at most he was guilty of disciplinary infractions, because the sexual relations he had been involved in were between consenting adults.