State: Slap Hanegbi With Suspended Sentence, Moral Turpitude Ruling

Judges expected to sentence Kadima MK and former minister for perjury conviction after the holidays.

The state prosecutor asked the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to impose a suspended sentence, a ruling of moral turpitude and a fine on MK Tzachi Hanegbi, following his conviction on perjury and swearing falsely.

Hanegbi's attorneys asked the judges to determine that his offenses did not carry moral turpitude, which could scuttle Hanegbi's political career, and to make do with a sentence of public service and a fine.

Dagan, Hanegbi - Michal Fattal - Sept. 17, 2010
Michal Fattal

The judges are expected to sentence Hanegbi after the holidays.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Jerusalem District Prosecutor Eli Abarbanel were reportedly in favor of a prison sentence-public service arrangement, but Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was said to prefer a suspended sentence.

A suspended sentence, assuming the court determines that Hanegbi's actions carry moral turpitude, will mean that Hanegbi will have to resign from the current Knesset, but will not prevent him from running in the next elections.

The prosecution also announced yesterday that it intends to appeal the verdict that found Hanegbi innocent on charges of making illegal political appointments, breach of trust, election bribery, fraud and illicitly attempting to influence a voter.

In what the prosecution called a "flagship case" for the fight against corruption, Hanegbi was brought up on charges in 2006 of illicitly appointing some 50 Likud Central Committee members and their relatives to positions in the Environmental Protection Ministry when he was minister.

Before the verdict was handed down yesterday, Hanegbi asked to summon three character witnesses before the court: Havah Peiton Pascal, a founders of a group that assists bereaved siblings of IDF casualties, who told the court Hanegbi has supported the group for years; former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, and Guy Yovel, whose two children were injured by a land mine in the Golan Heights. Hanegbi was prominent in pushing for a law to clear the mines.

Burg told the court: "I wouldn't want moral turpitude to prevent him from continuing on the public service path."

Burg added that he believed Hanegbi was "one of the pillars of political credibility in Israel" and was not a public figure who was a liar.

The prosecution told the court the case was clearly one where moral turpitude should apply. Prosecutor Erez Padan said the fact that Hanegbi had lied in what he called a planned and calculated way, repeatedly and in a number of forms, shows that his actions were not a one-time stumble. Padan said Hanegbi's was guilty of "an ongoing criminal act, not a moment of weakness."

Hanegbi had lied to advance his political career, Padan said, and the offense of swearing falsely was by its nature one that carried moral turpitude. He added Hanegbi had not taken responsibility for his actions nor had he showed any regret.

Judge Yoel Tsur, whose minority opinion had exonerated Hanegbi of all charges, asked Padan: "In how many cases of liars did you submit indictments? I can count them all on the fingers of a hand and half."

Padan responded that the question was relevant in terms of the sentence, but not the issue of moral turpitude.

In asking that moral turpitude not be imposed, Hanegbi's lawyers noted that he had not been convicted of most of the charges against him and that the perjury had been an "addendum" to the charge sheet, particularly since the declared policy of the prosecution is not to try cases of perjury other than exceptional circumstances where evidence had been falsified or there had been conspiracy to incriminate others.

Hanegbi attorney Jacob Weinroth asked the court to differentiate between the lie the judges had attributed to Hanegbi, and that of former minister Haim Ramon in the case of the soldier he was convicted of kissing against her will. Weinroth said Ramon had not only not told the truth, but had sullied the complainant.

"There is a difference between a witness who lies in court and someone who is [at risk of criminal conviction] and seeks to fight suspicions against himself," Weinroth said.

Hanegbi's attorneys said their client had paid the price of moral turpitude in not being allowed to serve as a minister for the past six years because of the legal proceedings against him.