Higher court ruling may lead to jail time for ex-Jerusalem police chief

Shaham was acquitted of sexual harassment at the lower magistrate court level and sentenced to mere community service in December 2018, leading to an explosion of public outrage.

September 24, 2019 01:19
2 minute read.
Jerusalem police chief Nisso Shaham

Jerusalem police chief Nisso Shaham 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Former Jerusalem police chief Nisso Shaham may serve jail time after the Tel Aviv District Court convicted him Monday on a charge of sexually harassing female officers under his command.

The district court decision restores to the headlines a case that shook the entire police force and has been at the forefront of public debate about the #MeToomovement in Israel.

Shaham had been acquitted of sexual harassment at the lower magistrate court level and was sentenced to mere community service in December 2018, leading to an explosion of public outrage from women’s rights advocates.

Now the case goes back to the magistrate’s court to issue a stiffer sentence – one which could include jail time – based on the harsher conviction of sexual harassment and additional convictions of fraud and breach of trust.

The reversal comes after the prosecution appealed both the acquittals and the lenient sentence and succeeded in convincing the district court of Shaham’s guilt, with the court condemning his actions in the harshest terms.

Shaham’s lawyers slammed the latest decision as ignoring the magistrate’s court’s findings of facts, since only that lower court had the benefit of hearing from every witness live.

Typically, witnesses do not testify in appeal proceedings, and appeals courts only correct lower courts on misinterpretations of the law.

The lawyers said that the district court went beyond its authority by correcting the lower court on findings of fact, saying that they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Back in December 2018, Association of Rape Crisis Center CEO Orit Soliciano called Shaham’s previous community service sentence “shocking, outrageous and inconceivable.”

“Shaham used his authority systematically and repeatedly to exploit young and junior female officers who were in difficult circumstances and needed his help,” she said.

Soliciano especially attacked the court’s explanation that it would give Shaham a lenient sentence due to his public service. She argued that his senior law enforcement role meant he should receive a more severe punishment.

She added that a recent survey by the Authority for Advancement of the Status of Women found that 66% of women have experienced some level of sexual harassment, with only 5% ever reporting it.

In that light, she said it was unconscionable that when brave women came forward, the men who had sexually harassed them should get off with a slap on the wrist.

Shaham had beaten most of the charges at the magistrate’s court level by admitting to many instances of sexual intimacy with junior officers, but convincing the court that the encounters had been consensual or, at the very least, ambiguous.

He even appealed the single conviction for indecent assault in which the lower court said he kissed one of the junior officers against her will, though the district court dismissed this appeal.

In October 2013, Shaham resigned his post after he was indicted for sex crimes against multiple female officers who worked under his command.

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