Appeal the Olmert Verdict

Verdict in the case of former PM Olmert clearly shows that there were grounds for indicting him even on the counts of which he was acquitted.

Last week's ad hominem attacks on State Prosecutor Moshe Lador have no basis in reality. The detailed verdict in the case of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clearly shows that there were grounds for indicting him even on the counts of which he was acquitted.

Olmert's acquittal in the case of the cash-filled envelopes he received from American-Jewish businessman Morris Talansky was based not on the facts, but on the court's legal and normative interpretation of them. And in this situation, it is not unusual for the Supreme Court to intervene. The trial court found much of Talansky's testimony to be credible, and concluded that he indeed gave Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars. It also found that Olmert, at Talansky's request, recommended him to businessmen such as Yitzhak Tshuva and Sheldon Adelson, in an effort to promote Talansky's business. Nevertheless, the court found that these facts do not pass the so-called Sheves Test - the standard set in an earlier case for proving the crime of breach of trust. This finding requires a normative reexamination by the Supreme Court, because if these acts don't pass the test, then a new normative test is needed to protect the public from the ties between government and big business.

Moreover, the trial court decided that the cash fund which attorney Uri Messer managed for Olmert did not have to be reported to the state comptroller, because the money might have been used for legitimate political purposes. The Supreme Court ought to decide whether maintaining a secret hoard of cash, some of which was given to Olmert without any records or monitoring of its use, is compatible with this possibility. Prosecutors should seriously consider appealing the verdict in the Rishon Tours case as well. The scarlet thread running through the verdict is its conclusion that because Olmert and his staff could have double-billed even more flights than they actually did, thereby gaining even more money, this indicates that no fraud was intended. But this argument is unconvincing. Con men don't always milk their scams for everything they can - sometimes for reasons of convenience, and sometimes to avoid arousing suspicion. The same goes for the claim that Olmert, even though it was provend that he read and signed the relevant documents, was too busy to study them thoroughly and understand them. This argument returns us to the bad old days when people in power made their underlings the fall guys.

Despite the campaign of intimidation against it, the prosecution should appeal the verdict, because this verdict is liable to inculcate unacceptable public norms.