Jurists Spar Over Meaning of Weinroth Acquittal

Some jurists say the court's acquittal, which the prosecution is expected to appeal, cleared Weinroth totally.

One day after prominent lawyer Yaakov Weinroth was acquitted on bribery and money laundering charges, disagreement is already raging over what the acquittal means.

Immediately after the Tel Aviv District Court rendered its verdict, the prosecution issued a statement claiming the acquittal was due to the absence of sufficient evidence to prove Weinroth's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This statement suggested that the verdict did not actually clear Weinroth of the suspicions against him.

Yaakov Weinroth - Daniel Bar-On - 02112011
Daniel Bar-On

But not everyone agrees: Some jurists say the court's acquittal, which the prosecution is expected to appeal, cleared Weinroth totally.

In his verdict on the bribery charge, Judge Gilad Neuthal wrote that some of the prosecution's claims were supported by the evidence, but when taken as a whole, the evidence - including substantial portions of that submitted by the prosecution itself - did not lead to the indisputable conclusion that Weinroth was guilty.

On Tuesday, another leading lawyer, Ram Caspi weighed in on the controversy. While acknowledging that he had not read the court's opinion, he said he did not find it acceptable to make a distinction between an acquittal due to insufficient evidence and a complete acquittal.

"The fact that doubt exists results in a verdict acquitting the defendant," he said. "That's what the law stipulates." Hence there are no grounds for distinguishing between different kinds of acquittal, he argued.

Retired district court judge Dan Arbel largely concurred. "From the standpoint of the law, an acquittal is an acquittal is an acquittal, and it doesn't matter what the reasons were that led to the acquittal," he said.

On the other hand, he added, "There are verdicts in which the court says there were no grounds for filing an indictment, but this is not such a case. Here the court ruled that Weinroth's version was not less reasonable than the prosecution's. Therefore, the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt."

Oded Gazit, a lawyer in Weinroth's office, countered that the judge's 320-page opinion at no point states that the acquittal was due to reasonable doubt. "You also have to know how to lose," Gazit said.