Quietly, as it takes shelter behind other affairs (the collapse of the Barnoar investigation, new testimony by Shula Zaken), the State Prosecutor’s Office, together with Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s attorneys, is preparing a plea bargain by which the rabbi would be indicted on lesser charges.
About a month ago, Eli Schwartz, the prosecutor in charge of the case, threatened to resign if Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein signed such an agreement with the rabbi. About two weeks after that, it was reported that Weinstein had in fact decided to indict Pinto on charges of offering a bribe of $200,000 to police Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha, former head of the police investigations division and now head of the national fraud squad, in exchange for information Pinto asked Bracha to provide on another investigation against him.
But now it turns out that Schwartz’s concern was justified. Over the past few weeks the new state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, has been formulating an agreement with Pinto’s attorneys by which the unit in the Justice Ministry that investigates police misconduct will be allowed to question under warning Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, commander of Lahav 433 (the Israeli equivalent of the FBI), who recently resigned in connection with suspicions that he had received favors from the rabbi.
In exchange, the prosecution agreed to pledge not to demand that Pinto serve more than nine months in prison, if convicted. It was also agreed that if Arviv is indicted on criminal charges, the attorney general will decide what other forms of relief to give Pinto. Pinto’s legal team also demanded that charges of extortion with threats, suborning a witness, threatening a police officer and an attempted bribe of another police officer, be expunged from the indictment.
Such a plea bargain must not be permitted. The fact that Pinto has surrounded himself with elite attorneys and PR people should not grant him immunity or relief that would not be available to ordinary citizens. The suspicions against Arviv, as serious as they are, should not be the deciding factor in a plea bargain.
It is squarely in the public interest to file an extensive and relevant indictment against Pinto and allow the court to decide; it is in the public interest to expose the abundance of testimony of the rabbi and his followers, as well as of senior police officers; the public interest is to probe whether Pinto conducted all-out war against police officers who dared investigate the suspicions against him; the public interest is to uproot the ostensibly corrupt culture that involves rabbis, police, senior politicians, businessmen, journalists and criminals; it is in the public interest that, as soon as possible, the attorney general, backed by the State Prosecutor’s Office, announce an indictment against Pinto.