Prosecution Likely to Seek Severe’ Sentence for Ex-president, Jurists Say

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will decide on the punishment the prosecution will seek for Katsav, convicted of two counts of rape and other offenses; maximum punishment for rape is 16 years.

The prosecution is likely to ask merely for a “severe” sentence that would reflect the rape verdict against former President Moshe Katsav Thursday, legal experts said.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will decide on the punishment the prosecution will seek for Katsav, convicted of two counts of rape and other offenses.

Moshe Katsav, Alon Ron
Alon Ron

Most observers said the prosecution would not ask for a specific number of years; the maximum punishment for rape is 16 years.

The attorney general will also consider circumstances that could call for leniency, including the period of time since the offenses and the fact that Katsav has already paid a high personal price.

Prosecutor Irit Baumhorn told Haaretz she does not believe that the prosecution will demand more than nine years, considering sentences in other rape trials. Baumhorn worked on the case before the plea bargain that Katsav rejected in 2008.

But a criminal law expert at the University of Haifa, Prof. Emmanuel Gross, said he expects that Katsav will receive at least 10 years because of the two counts of rape.

Regardless of the number of years in the sentence, the prosecution is very likely to demand that the court declare that the conviction carries moral turpitude, barring Katsav from public office.

Rape convictions normally carry that punishment, but even if turpitude is acknowledged, Katsav will still be eligible for a state pension of around NIS 50,000 per month.

Apart from the criminal process, Katsav is expected to face a number of civil lawsuits. Daniel Sror, who represents A. from the Tourism Ministry, the complainant whom Katsav raped on two separate occasions, told reporters yesterday his client was considering filing a damages suit.

Another complainant, “A. from the President’s Residence,” is considering doing the same. The first complainant could file a civil suit attached to the criminal process, ensuring that it would be heard by the same judges who heard the criminal case. Or she could file a separate lawsuit and hope the judges rely on the verdict of the criminal process.

Sror, who specializes in civil lawsuits filed by sex-crime victims, declined to comment on his client’s course of action. Meanwhile, Katsav’s attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Avi Lavie said the former president intends to appeal against the verdict.

A source close to Katsav said the verdict must not be allowed to remain as is because the district court relied on loose and flawed evidence. If Katsav appeals to the Supreme Court, the process is expected to take another 18 months.

The former president’s associates declined to comment yesterday on whether he would ask his successor and former opponent, President Shimon Peres, for a pardon. Such clemency cannot be issued before sentencing and appeals are exhausted.

Attorney Yair Golan, who in the past represented another former minister accused of sex crimes, Yitzhak Mordechai, said the court would probably take into account Katsav’s decades of public service. But he noted that the higher Katsav’s office when the crimes were committed, the greater the gap between him and his victims.

He said the court also needed to consider that Katsav had already paid a heavy price. “The higher the office the greater the fall,” Golan said. “The tremendous price paid by Katsav because of who he was will also need to be considered by the court.”