Man accused of stalking prosecutor back in custody
J'lem court orders defendant in fraud case be returned to custody after paper containing information on prosecutor found on him.
Gavel Photo: REUTERS/Chip East
The state and Yaakov Berger battled on Thursday before the Supreme Court in
Berger’s appeal over his return to detention from house arrest, following the
finding that he had collected large amounts of personal information about the
prosecutor litigating his case.
Berger, who is ultra-Orthodox, is accused
of a massive fraud scheme in which he falsified financial reports and
applications for receiving funding for a system of haredi schools, in order to
take millions of shekels for himself.
Berger was initially arrested for
questioning but was released on strict house arrest terms, including constant
supervision from court-appointed supervisors. He has been living in a Migdal
Ha’emek yeshiva – instead of his family home – with an electronic tracker
chained to his legs since June 19.
On October 14, having asked special
permission to travel to Tel Aviv to meet with his lawyers, Berger went to Tel
Aviv along with his supervisor.
Berger did meet with his lawyer but left
the office at the end of the meeting without telling his supervisor, who had
dropped him off there, and went to a Tel Aviv restaurant with his
Traveling without his supervisor and going anywhere other than his
lawyer’s office were both violations of his conditions of house
Berger was located in the restaurant and arrested.
what was much more worrying to the Jerusalem District Court that ordered Berger
returned to police custody until the end of the proceedings was a piece of paper
containing information Berger had collected about the prosecutor litigating his
case, which was found while searching him.
The paper included the
prosecutor’s name, her husband’s name, how many children they have and their
home telephone number and address.
It also included the prosecutor and
her husband’s work addresses, her date of birth, where she received her degrees
and her graduation dates.
Next, the paper listed her parents’ names as
well as the names of some other prosecutors who had worked with her in the
The lower court found that the violations, plus the disturbing
attempt to seemingly trace, stalk or at the very least collect an unusual amount
of information about the prosecutor, showed that Berger – who also has British
citizenship – had an erratic personality that made him a flight
Berger’s attorneys argued before the Supreme Court that the
incident was an innocent misunderstanding.
They said that there was
nothing wrong with having collected information and that the lower court had
blown things out of proportion, letting its imagination run away with
Berger’s attorneys explained that the trip to the restaurant was
one violation in four months of house arrest, adding that Berger was with his
wife – who is listed as one of his possible supervisors.
The state hit
back alleging that Berger was twisting the facts, which spoke for themselves and
were worrying enough to justify keeping him in police custody for the remainder
of the case.
The Supreme Court’s questions suggested that it might be
open to making Berger’s house arrest conditions stricter, to solve what it saw
primarily as a crisis of “keeping faith” with the police and the
However, it was unclear that such stricter conditions were
possible without keeping Berger in police custody.