Olmert Plea Bargain Talks Stall; State Demands Confession

Prosecutor offers ‘no celebrity discounts or penalties’ to ex-PM.

Ehud Olmert at the Supreme Court, during a hearing on the appeal in the Holyland corruption case, Dec. 29, 2015.
Emil Salman

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s attorneys were unable to reach a plea bargain for him during a meeting with prosecutors Thursday, and no follow-up meeting has been scheduled.

One major disagreement between the parties was over a case for which Olmert has not yet even been indicted. The prosecution wants him to admit to obstructing justice in the Holyland case, in which he has already been convicted of taking a bribe and was sentenced to 18 months in jail last month. The potential obstruction charges stem from a tape recording in which he can ostensibly be heard trying to convince his former chief aide, Shula Zaken, not to testify against him in the bribery case.

Defense attorneys Eyal Rosovsky and Roy Blecher, in contrast, want the obstruction case closed. They also want the state to drop its appeal of Olmert’s acquittal in the so-called Rishon Tours case, in which he was charged with double-billing various nonprofit organizations for overseas flights and pocketing the difference. Finally, they want the state to let Olmert serve concurrent rather than consecutive sentences for the two cases in which he has been convicted – the Holyland case and the so-called Talansky case, in which he was convicted of accepting cash-filled envelopes from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky and failing to report the income. 

In exchange, Olmert’s team is offering to drop its appeal against the Talansky conviction and not to start any other legal proceedings related to Olmert’s various cases.

In an interview with Channel 2 television last night, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said the prosecution “has no intention of giving Olmert either celebrity discounts or celebrity penalties. If we think the public interest is served by the deal, I’ll do it. If the defendant is willing to confess and accept a suitable punishment, that’s what plea bargains are for.”

The Supreme Court is slated to hear Olmert’s appeal in the Talansky case next Tuesday. In that case, he was sentenced to eight months in prison, which is currently slated to be served consecutively with his 18-month sentence in the Holyland case. That means he would serve 26 months in total.

Last month, the Supreme Court partially granted his appeal in the Holyland case, clearing him of accepting a 500,000-shekel ($130,000) bribe but upholding his conviction for accepting a 60,000-shekel bribe. It consequently reduced his sentence from six years to 18 months.