Law Enforcement Boils as Underworld Figure Goes Free

The Nazareth District Court yesterday sentenced underworld figure Michael Mor to 11 months in prison after finding him guilty of intimidation and extortion through threats. The relatively light sentence - most of which the defendant has already served for another conviction - provoked bitter recriminations from several Knesset members involved in law enforcement.

Judge Yifat Shitrit-Hadad said that in addition to the prison sentence, Mor would be "exiled" from his hometown of Nahariya for 13 months after his release and during that time would have to live south of Haifa.

The indictment against Mor was filed several months ago, while he was already serving prison time for a weapons conviction. Mor has been in police custody since February, and will therefore be released in only two to three months.

The indictment stated that while at Ketziot and Shata prisons, Mor spoke with friends and family by telephone and uttered threats against judges, as well as police officers (and their families) who had been involved in a 2006 case against him. In that case, several Northern District detectives and one officer were convicted of placing explosive devices next to Mor's home and vehicle after grenades were hurled at the officers' homes, which were attributed to Mor's criminal organization.

The conviction for intimidation and extortion comes after the court received an amended indictment intended to bring the case to a close through a plea bargain.

The plea agreement was drafted following working meetings between defense attorneys Michael Carmel, Doron Noy and Yahali Sperling and deputy Northern District state attorney Sheila Inbar.

The prosecution sought to have Mor sentenced to 24 months in prison, in addition to the injunction keeping him out of Nahariya, while defense attorneys wanted a minimal prison sentence and a limited prohibition on entering the city.

"I'm not happy with the sentence," Inbar said after the ruling, adding that "time will tell" whether the decision to negotiate a plea bargain was "justified or mistaken."

Noy, of the defense team, said, "This is a courageous ruling by a court that was not influenced by media noise, but proceeded as if just anyone had committed these violations."

Carmel added, "As a Nahariya native, I say that everyone has overblown this case. This case is over."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said of the ruling: "The court's decision is disappointing, and not encouraging in the fight against crime." "We must remember these are extremely serious incidents, perpetrated by the head of a crime organization who threatened judges and police officers in Israel," he said. "The length of the sentence left to be served delivers a very difficult message."

MK Yohanan Plesner, who initiated a bill for minimum sentences in criminal cases, said, "This light sentence for Michael Mor is a prize for criminality, which only highlights the need to set a minimum sentence for harming a public servant."

Police officers convicted of bombing Mor's property also reacted furiously to the ruling, with one calling it "embarrassing."

"This gives full encouragement to criminals to violate every principle of the rule of law," the officer said.