RABBI YOSHIYAHU PINTO.
(photo credit: OFIR AVITAN)
The Tel Aviv District Court convicted Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto on bribery and other charges Tuesday morning, following his confession in open court as part of a pre-arranged plea bargain.
The agreed-upon deal was thrown into question on Monday when Pinto was rushed to the hospital shortly after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The rabbi was complaining of chest pains, and initial media reports indicated he may need surgery which would delay Tuesday’s hearing.
But on Tuesday, Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said Pinto had undergone only diagnostic checks and he was given a clean bill of health. The rabbi was released Tuesday morning just in time for his court appearance.
Pinto was forced by the court to fly back to Israel for the hearing, though he fought to avoid it and was accused of months of unnecessary delays.
On Tuesday, the court ordered Pinto to remain in the country and banned him from air travel until his sentencing.
His lawyer tried to remove the restriction, but the court rejected the request and confiscated his passport, noting there had been too many complications with his return so far.
Pinto’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28, and he is expected to try and bring new evidence, reportedly against senior police commander Ephraim Bracha – despite the state saying Pinto had waived this right under the plea bargain. The rabbi is also expected to call Elie Wiesel to testify via video hook-up as a character witness.
Pinto was charged with trying to bribe Bracha – head of the National Fraud Squad – with $200,000 to get information about a criminal investigation into the rabbi’s Hazon Yeshaya foundation. Bracha reported Pinto’s actions to his superiors and then continued to gather evidence on the rabbi, the indictment said.
Pinto is the founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva and a well-known rabbi in both Israel and the US. In the past, he was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel by Forbes