Ehud Olmert held his head in his hands and appeared to have his eyes closed. He avoided eye contact with everyone in the court-room for several minutes after hearing the bad news.
Then he briefly looked up, ashen- faced, and appeared somewhat bewildered, as if to ask: How did it come to this? In those moments with his head down and his eyes closed, what was he picturing as an answer? One answer could be a laughing Shmuel Duchner, reaching out from beyond the grave to take his revenge.
Duchner was the main accusing witness, who died mid-trial in March 2013. But before he became the accuser, he was the front-man for the Holyland project who handed out all of the bribes to Olmert and Co. for their assistance in getting around legal and zoning obstacles.
According to Duchner, he turned state’s witness when his health began to fail, followed by going from relatively wealthy to being in debt, and most importantly, when the Holyland defendants turned their back on him socially.
With all of the fuss during the last few weeks over Shula Zaken, and years ago over Morris Talansky, it was ridiculed, outcast, pariah witness Duchner who finally took him down (though Olmert is expected to appeal, so the saga may not be completely over.) Olmert and Co. tore Duchner, who had an odd appearance, apart in the media and laughed and poked fun condescendingly at his admittedly strange mannerisms and his accusations against them when he testified.
Yet Olmert had an easy out.
Duchner was upfront with the court, saying he viewed himself as a liar and a cheat and that he had not come forward to accuse all of the Holyland conspirators out of the goodness of his heart, but to get money from the state and to get revenge for being ignored when he came on hard times.
Before actually turning accuser, he threatened to go to the state if he was not paid off – meaning the writing was on the wall.
Some of the other defendants were ready to pay him, but Olmert objected.
When Duchner testified, one even had the sense that even without paying him a lot of money, if Olmert and Co. had not turned their backs on Duchner socially and continued to invite him to fancy events and to give him public honors, he might have held his tongue.
At Duchner’s funeral, his daughter blasted the defendants, their lawyers, and the media, saying, “They spilled your blood and shortened your life.”
Outside the realm of law and in the realm of politics, if there is any lesson, it would be for leaders to take care of and give respect to their middlemen and their underlings, lest a Zaken or a Duchner be their undoing even from beyond the grave.