Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is seen in Jerusalem District Court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Rarely has there been such enmity between prosecution and defense attorneys as in the eight years of legal and public relations warfare in the cases involving former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Dozens if not hundreds of times, Olmert’s lawyers and spokespeople have accused the prosecution of mounting a witch hunt against their client.
These attacks have been waged directly on television and through leaked stories to reporters. When Olmert was initially acquitted in July 2012, a commentator metaphorically called for then head state attorney Moshe Lador to fall on his sword for needlessly knocking him out of power.
At every court hearing, the sides interrupted each other, gave off dagger looks and the tension between them was palpable.
But oh, how things have now changed! Two weeks ago, he cut a deal with those same witch-hunting prosecutors to save himself from a possible additional six months in prison.
Not only will Olmert be going to jail to serve an 18-month sentence for a bribery conviction in the Holyland case in less than two weeks, he also admitted regret and confessed to a crime for the first time two weeks ago as part of a plea bargain in the Shula Zaken secret tapes saga.
The tapes captured Olmert plotting with Zaken to refuse to testify in his Jerusalem corruption trial and to refuse a plea bargain in the Holyland trial, while offering her money and other support.
The climax of everything turning upside down and truth being stranger than fiction was Tuesday’s hearing, in which the prosecution and Olmert’s lawyers fought together to keep Olmert from more jail time, against Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Avital Chen, who lambasted the plea bargain.
Transforming into Olmert’s stalwart defenders, the prosecution told the judge that Olmert should get leniency for expressing regret for his actions.
Chen slapped that answer away, saying his regret was not genuine and was only to save his neck.
The prosecution doubled down to defend its once public enemy number one, noting that Olmert had not been the sole source of the obstruction, with Zaken voluntarily coordinating with him all along the way.
As six months is a comparatively long sentence for the crime committed in the tapes saga, the judge then accused the prosecution of agreeing to the harsh sentence as a way to cover themselves for agreeing to all six months being subsumed within the 18 months to which Olmert had previously been sentenced.
Again, the prosecution defended him, using Olmert’s own terminology about how many years he has suffered from legal proceedings (by them) against him.
Next, Olmert’s lawyer Eyal Rozovsky made many of the same points, sounding eerily like they were suddenly part of the same team.
As plea bargains are usually uneventfully ratified by courts, Chen shocked everyone by refusing, at least so far, to ratify the six month sentence and by ordering a separate court date on the issue for February 10.
Most expect him to ultimately relent, but Chen did hint of possibly giving Olmert one additional month of jail time.
In any event, Chen’s unexpected attack, for one moment, forced the worst of enemies onto the same side, with the prosecution defending Olmert to the hilt and making for some extraordinary drama.