State to Ask for Hefty Jail Time Over Katsav Rape Conviction

Tel Aviv District Court to hear sentencing arguments Tuesday; maximum possible sentence is incarceration for 16 years.

The state is expected to ask for substantial jail time when the Tel Aviv District Court hears arguments today on the punishment of former President Moshe Katsav.

Katsav was convicted on two counts of rape and indecent assault and sexual harassment involving women who worked for him. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice.

katsav - Tal Cohen - February 22 2011
Tal Cohen

The law permits a sentence of 16 years in prison for rape, but based on precedent and comments by legal observers, there is a reasonable chance Katsav will receive less than this. One observer, attorney Ariel Atari, said the sentence would probably be a "single digit" number of years.

The state is expected to ask for significant jail time, without being precise.

Katsav's defense team is not expected to present character witnesses, but it is thought his lawyers will ask for leniency in light of the case's massive media coverage and the suffering they say the former president has undergone.

One of Katsav's lawyers, Avraham Lavie, said the defense team did not plan to produce character witnesses, but if it did, it would be a member of the former president's family. Katsav himself does not plan to address the judges.

The defense is expected to argue that leniency is required in the sentencing in the interest of justice. Earlier in the case, Katsav's lawyers made a similar argument that the indictment should be dropped in the interest of justice. The court rejected the contention, but left open the possibility that this argument would be considered during sentencing due to the anguish caused to Katsav by the media.

"We are not ignoring the mental anguish the accused suffered as a result of the relentless flood of harsh reporting against him in the media, declaring him a sex offender before the trial," the judges, George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach, wrote in their guilty verdict. "We don't exclude the possibility of the matter being raised again later on."

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard an appeal by several media outlets of a decision to close today's hearing to the public. The High Court rejected the petition but ruled that the district court should issue a summary of the minutes at the end of the hearing.