Former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court asking it to deny a special motion by the state to remand the Talansky Affair allegations against him to the Jerusalem District Court for a partial retrial.
The state filed the request on May 27 and the Supreme Court is due to hear the matter on Monday.
The state’s move had been expected since the state struck a plea bargain deal with Olmert’s former chief of staff Shula Zaken, but its motion and Olmert’s response were still dramatic developments in his continuing legal battles.
In the worst-case scenario for Olmert, the remand could lead to a reversal of his acquittal in the case, a new conviction and more jail time on top of the six-year prison sentence he has received on bribery convictions in the separate Holyland Affair in the Tel Aviv District Court.
The Talansky Affair allegedly involved Olmert receiving large amounts of cash in envelopes from New York businessman Morris Talansky, not reporting them to the state comptroller, hiding them in his confidante Uri Messer’s secret safe, as well as involvement in the disappearance of some of the money.
The state said the Jerusalem District Court should hear new evidence from Zaken and introduce two cassette tapes and her journal into evidence.
Opposing the state’s motion, Olmert’s legal team wrote that the motion had unconvincingly tried to pretend that all precedent about the finality of a trial court’s ruling was irrelevant, with a singular focus on the powerful impact of Zaken’s tapes.
Olmert said this tactical move was particularly troubling, since in most appeals the state is the party that insists on the finality of trial courts’ verdicts, and pointed to the rarity of granting motions for retrials or to collect new evidence.
His brief said that the motion was an attempt by the state to use two cassette tapes to introduce a variety of other rejected evidential items, thereby doing an end-run on the rules preventing the introduction of new evidence that could had been submitted earlier.
The brief used the state’s own language against it, noting that the state had told the Supreme Court that it should reverse Olmert’s acquittal in the Talansky Affair even if the state was not allowed to introduce the new evidence.
In other words, Olmert said, if the new evidence was not necessary for the state to win, even in the state’s mind, but only strengthened its appeal, then the evidence was not significant enough to warrant reopening the case for it.
Olmert continued that the state needed to admit that the cassette tapes could not stand on their own as evidence and made no sense without submitting other “new” evidence, which the state had previously tried to introduce but that the court had rejected.
The state, however, said it believed that acquittal could be reversed on the record already before the Supreme Court.
Moreover, the brief said that the state was being disingenuous by saying that Zaken would only testify for a short period of time that would be limited to explaining the tapes, and that the tapes were being used to improperly give Zaken a second chance to testify against Olmert after she had refused to do so at trial.
Olmert also slammed the state’s claim that he and his alleged involvement in witness tampering were the reasons Zaken had refused to testify originally, and instead said that Zaken’s current statements about Olmert were part of her false story, aimed at obtaining a shorter prison sentence in the Holyland Affair.
The state request had indicated that Zaken’s tapes, from May 2011 – just before Olmert started to testify on the Talansky Affair – and October 2012 – three months after the court acquitted him in the case – show that Olmert used illegal means to pressure Zaken into refusing to testify and refusing to cooperate with the state.
Those means allegedly included various forms of pressure, as well as offering to get her legal expenses paid for her by associates.
Zaken’s journal could be a crucial piece of proof against Olmert, and the court had refused to review its contents at the trial because at the time she refused to testify.
The state has yet to make a final decision on the issue.
Notably, the state did not ask to reopen evidence in the Rishon Tours Affair, which involved Olmert allegedly double-billing for reimbursement travel expenses, and from which Olmert was acquitted by the Jerusalem District Court in July 2012.