Hit-and-run Driver Gets 20 Years for Manslaughter

Judge: People who drink and drive should be sentenced like people who indiscriminately open fire.

The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday sentenced Shai Simon to 20 years in prison for killing a woman and causing her friend grievous bodily harm in an October 2008 hit-and-run.

Meital Aharonson, 27, was killed and Mali Yazdi seriouly injured after the two left them for dead on Tel Aviv's Ibn Gvirol Street.

Shalom Yemini, who was in the vehicle's passenger seat at the time of the accident, was handed a 5-year-sentence for abandoning the women.

"His driving was not only reckless, it was rash and criminal," the judge said of Simon. "The court should hammer home the important message that human life is not cheap. People who drive after drinking alcohol should be sentenced like people who indiscriminately open fire with a weapon. The time has come to hand down tougher sentences in such cases."

Yemini, who was indicted together with Simon, wasacquitted of the same charges, but convicted of leaving the scene. The court ruled that he was not driving the vehicle that hit the two victims.

The initial indictment against Simon and Yemini also included allegations of driving while intoxicated, destruction of evidence and other offenses. The indictment alleged that after going out for the evening in the Tel Aviv port, the two were stopped by police, who wanted to check whether the driver of their vehicle, an SUV, was intoxicated, but the two drove off. The indictment said that Simon was apparently driving the SUV when the police stopped them, but Yemini was driving when the vehicle later hit Aharonson and Yazdi.

According to the indictment, following the accident, they switched drivers again and later abandoned the car. Yemini is alleged to have threatened Simon to remove fingerprints or any other evidence on the vehicle linking them to the case. The initial indictment was based on the version of events that Simon gave police. Yemini maintained his silence on the incident.

In May 2009, following Simon's testimony in court, the prosecution asked that the indictment be amended to show that he was the driver at the time of the accident, citing changes in his version of events. The prosecution left manslaughter charges pending against both defendants, claiming that had acted together.