Morris Talansky Contradicts Testimony on Final Day in Court

Trouble came when American Jewish businessman said he couldn't remember cash payment he earlier said he passed to Olmert.

American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky contradicted his earlier testimony during his final day in court Monday, but State Prosecutor Moshe Lador refused to ask the Jerusalem District Court to declare him a hostile witness.

Talansky was giving preliminary testimony regarding allegations that he gave cashed-filled envelopes to former prime minister Ehud Olmert over a period of many years. Olmert has not yet been formally indicted, but Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has announced his intent to do so, unless a hearing with Olmert changes his views.

The trouble arose during Talansky's cross-examination by attorney Micha Pettman, who represents Olmert's former office manager, Shula Zaken. Earlier, Talansky had testified that he once gave Zaken an envelope filled with $72,500 for Olmert. But he told Pettman that he did not actually remember this; he had merely inferred that it must be so from other evidence the police showed him.

Lador charged that this contradicted previous statements of Talansky's, to both the police and the court, and wanted to confront him with these statements. But to do so, the rules of evidence would require him to declare Talansky a hostile witness - which he did not want to do, because it was all too clear what a field day Olmert's attorneys would have with that. "Even the state prosecutor doesn't believe Talansky," they would say, "so why should the court?" He therefore tried to confront Talansky with his previous statements without declaring him hostile.

Olmert's attorneys predictably objected, but initially, the court went along. As Lador's questions continued, however, the judges lost patience: They told him that unless he declared Talansky hostile, he could no longer question the witness about the discrepancies in his testimony.

At this point, Talansky himself suddenly objected. "I'm not a hostile witness," he insisted. "I want you to make it clear to the reporters: I'm not hostile to either the prosecution or the defense; I'm just here to do what is needed."

And when Lador assured him that he would not be declared hostile, Talansky appealed directly to the reporters: "Please, listen."

With that, Talansky's testimony ended. As for Lador, he declined comment after the hearing.