(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a landmark decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court for the first time overturned a criminal conviction in a retrial.
The case involved a 76-year-old-man who had been found guilty of committing sexual crimes and served out his time in jail.
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In the last few years, the Supreme Court has changed its policy and been somewhat more liberal in granting requests for retrials. But this is the first time that a retrial has resulted in the overturning of the original verdict.
The case involves Arnoldo Lazarovsky, who was a janitor at the Kfar Saba Country Club between 1991 and 1994. According to a complaint lodged by a teenager who patronized country club, Lazarovsky sexually attacked the boy, who was 12 years old when the alleged crimes began.
The boy, who only complained several years later, as he was about to join the army, went into great detail about Lazarovsky’s alleged sexual advances that included oral and anal sex.
On July 27, 2000, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Lazarovsky of committing an indecent act and an act of sodomy against a minor less than 14 years of age. He was sentenced to six years in jail, including two years suspended.
Lazarovsky appealed to the Supreme Court, which let the verdict stand.
Soon afterward, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court convicted Gregory Schneider of committing similar acts against a 14-year-old boy. It turned out that Schneider worked as a janitor at the same country club as Lazarovsky and the person who lodged the complaint against him was the same one who had complained against Lazarovsky.
Unlike Lazarovsky, however, Schneider appealed the decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, which acquitted him. Two of the judges found that the youth’s testimony was unreliable.
In the wake of this decision, Lazarovsky requested a retrial. Justice Miriam Naor, who was put in charge of the case, granted the request on the grounds that the Lazarovsky and Schneider cases were almost identical. Therefore, Schneider’s acquittal justified a retrial for Lazarovsky.
Naor sent the case back to the district court, which once again convicted Lazarovsky in a unanimous decision.
Once again, he appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which, on
Thursday, overruled the lower court and acquitted Lazarovsky. He had
long since completed his sentence.
In an interview with Yediot Aharonot’s
Web site, Lazarovsky’s daughter Leora said, “When I told my parents
that father had been acquitted, they did not believe me and couldn’t
understand where this came from. We have gone through hell.”
She said her father had suffered a heart attack because of the affair
and was a broken man. Now, “my parents are crying with joy. All the
fighting we did was not to get compensation but so that father would
feel he got what he deserved.”
Nevertheless, it was likely the family would now sue the state, she added.