There is a high likelihood that the Supreme Court, which has started to hear the
state’s appeal of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s acquittals, will focus its
attention on the Talansky Affair, while upholding the lower court’s acquittal of
Olmert in the Rishon Tours Affair.
Although in its appeal the state also
asked the court to give Olmert a harsher punishment (code for a finding of moral
turpitude to keep him out of politics) for his conviction for breach of public
trust in the Investment Center Affair, the state openly indicated it knew this
was likely a losing argument.
Almost comically, the state did not even
offer any oral arguments on the issue, which led to a bizarre back and forth,
with Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis seemingly asking the state to take
up the issue, and the state repeatedly declining.
What then is the likely
result in the Talansky Affair? How might it impact Olmert’s chances to throw his
hat back into the next race for prime minister along with the current shortlist
of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid? Most of
the focus is on conviction (reversing the lower court) or acquittal (upholding
the lower court’s decision) – with conviction ending Olmert’s career and
acquittal providing full redemption.
But the Supreme Court could issue a
ruling walking carefully down a tightrope that could mix the two.
the court convicts Olmert of breach of public trust, possibly even a minor count
of fraud, in the Talansky Affair, reversing the lower court on the verdict, but
still hands down a sentence short of a finding of moral turpitude? Before the
lower court’s decision, few considered such a middle ground. Then the lower
court essentially said that while Olmert was guilty, dethroning him from being
prime minister and his years of legal fights were sufficient
The Supreme Court will not want to be seen as a rubber stamp
for the lower court and will want to show that it is ready to exercise its
And on the details, at least from Tuesday’s
questions, some of the justices seem to view Olmert’s actions – receiving large
amounts of cash in envelopes, not reporting them to the state comptroller,
hiding them in his confidante Uri Messer’s secret safe and some of the funds
completely disappearing – with even greater suspicion than the lower court
The above factors could lead to a conviction in the Talansky Affair,
which would rack up at least two minor convictions against Olmert.
the court appeared to be split on the issue, with some justices hitting the
state hard as being too paranoid in its analysis of Olmert’s actions, and in
what may be one of the most important rulings in its history, the court may work
hard for a unanimous vote and some sort of compromise.
sympathetic to the holes in the case against Olmert can tell those suspicious of
Olmert that not only has he been dethroned as prime minister, but with the
appeal dragging out the case (along with the Holyland case) he missed a second
national election and essentially will have been kept out of politics for seven
(possibly even eight) years – what would have happened with a finding of moral
In that sense, the state’s appeal already worsened Olmert’s
political position by an additional three to four years of suspension from
politics from what it would have been simply after the lower court
Finally, a finding of moral turpitude really requires the
judges to have a certain level of disgust for a defendant’s acts, beyond the
particular criminal conviction.
While there were hard hitting questions
for the defense on Tuesday, disgust appeared absent from the room.
while two convictions with no finding of moral turpitude sounds like a strange
result, it could fit a grand judicial compromise in a case with many competing
considerations at stake.
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