Israel Prosecutor Rapped for Denying House Arrest Due to Poverty

Despite father's testimony, prosecutor says family's two bedroom home 'involves conditions of overcrowding ' cannot 'oversee the defendant.'

Arrest (illustration)
Olivier Fitoussi

A judge has castigated a prosecutor who told the Tel Aviv District Court that a young defendant accused of aggravated robbery should not be released to house arrest because of the overcrowded and economically trying conditions of his home.

The indictment was filed against two defendants over an incident last month in Tel Aviv in which the defendants are said to have been sitting and drinking with a young man they had met. According to the indictment, the young man gave the defendants permission to try out his electric bicycle. While one defendant was riding the bicycle, the other allegedly punched the young man and stole his wallet, after which the two accused are said to have fled the scene.

At a hearing in the case of the defendant who rode the bicycle and who is not alleged to have delivered the punch and having stolen the wallet, prosecutor Janette Dodge asked that the accused, who has no criminal record, remain in jail. District Court Judge Tali Haimovich Livnat suggested that alternatives to continued detention be considered, and four people present in the courtroom offered to supervise the defendant’s house arrest.

In the course of the hearing, the prosecutor asked the defendant’s father about conditions at home. The father said that five people were living in two bedrooms and a living room, after which the prosecutor asked: “Do you understand that your son won’t be able to leave home and will be in those two rooms the whole time. Won’t it make it hard on you?”

In the closing arguments, the prosecutor made further reference to the financial circumstances of the defendant, who is of Ethiopian background, as grounds to have him remain in jail. “This involves conditions of overcrowding and financial distress and therefore on the face of things, it does not appear that those people can oversee the defendants over time,” she said.

Judge Haimovich Livnat nevertheless released the defendant from jail and took the prosecutor to task, noting that those overseeing house arrest are usually relatives of the defendant. The prosecutor’s office said in response that it had asked that the defendants, who are accused of aggravated robbery, remain in detention until the end of legal proceedings against them in light of the danger they pose and the fact that another criminal case is pending against them. The prosecution added that some of those proposed to oversee the house arrest were unavailable in the morning, or were young people who would not be authority figures, or were unemployed.