Ehud Olmert in court for closing arguments in the Talansky retrial.
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s lawyers on Thursday presented their closing statement in the Talansky retrial at the Jerusalem District Court, that “Shula Zaken had lied” repeatedly and that it was not allowed to penalize him for deciding not to testify.
Olmert’s lawyer, Eyal Rozovsky, who joined his prior lawyer Eli Zohar for the retrial, attacked the heart of the prosecution’s case on this point.
Throughout the retrial, which opened in September after a Supreme Court decision to send the case back for a second round, the state told the court that one of the primary reasons to convict Olmert was he refused to testify and rebut Zaken, his former top aide, and her recordings of him.
Rozovsky argued that the Supreme Court had not sent the case back for a full retrial, which might have required Olmert to testify and to judge him negatively for holding back.
Rather, he said the Supreme Court limited the retrial to the issue of whether Olmert used certain funds in dispute for permitted political or illegal personal uses and whether the new Zaken recordings and her journal proved the illegal kind.
In other words, the retrial could have been labeled a very limited add-on evidentiary hearing on a few small items – nothing that would require Olmert to testify again, having already done so on around two dozen occasions during the original trial.
To hammer this point home, he quoted repeatedly from the Supreme Court’s decision sending the case back for a retrial, in which it kept using the word “permitted” about Olmert fighting back against new charges, as opposed to “obligated.”
Olmert was acquitted in July 2012 of illegally using cash he received in envelopes from New York businessman Morris Talansky in a case that dated back to 2008.
The state appealed in fall 2012 and before the appeal had been decided, the now infamous Zaken recordings of her talking to Olmert, with him allegedly making statements proving he both illegally used the Talansky funds and that he obstructed Zaken from telling the truth in the original trial appeared.
A central part of Rozovsky’s narrative was explaining that all alleged illegal uses of funds were unproven or, if one accepted his interpretation, were in fact permitted political uses.
Regarding four entries in Zaken’s journal, a major new source of evidence against Olmert which she prevented the prosecution from using in the original trial, adding up to Olmert receiving $19,800 for illegal personal use, Rozovsky said each receipt of funds could be tied to a political event for which the funds could have permissibly been used for.
Rozovsky said the $25,000- $30,000 which Olmert allegedly illegally paid to Zaken from illegally received funds in 2004 were legitimate, as they were for Zaken’s political services, such as campaigning, above and beyond her work as an office manager in a state institution.
He said zaken had testified that she was Olmert’s “closest political aide and right-hand person, who saw his political fate as determining where her life would go” and stopped at nothing in “overtime” to promote his career and political activities.
Rozovsky said that the other allegations about Olmert illegally using funds to purchase expensive cigars, tailor-made suits and dry-cleaning did not appear in either her journal or on any of the recordings and were based solely on her testimony, which he found extremely contradictory and questionable.
He added that Zaken admitted she turned state witness against him to “destroy him” and settle scores with him over her feeling he had betrayed her.