(photo credit: REUTERS)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will reach a decision on whether to launch a trial against Sara Netanyahu or whether to accept an offer she made for a plea bargain within days, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The current delay from the final decision – which was originally set for mid-April, immediately after the Passover holiday – is not because of any foot-dragging in plea bargaining negotiations as many in the media have reported, but because of integrating new evidence from Nir Hefetz.
Nir Hefetz was a close adviser to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, until he recently became a state’s witness against the prime minister.
While the main focus of Hefetz’s testimony is against the prime minister, he also provided new details which served to strengthen the case against Sara, as well as disclosing some details that her defense might use.
Former Netanyahu Spokesman Signs Witness Deal In Graft Probe, March 5, 2018The Post
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has also learned the full behind-the-scenes picture of plea bargain negotiations between Sara’s lawyers and Mandelblit.
While Sara’s lawyers have told the Post and other media outlets that there have been extensive back-and-forth negotiations, sources close to Mandelblit have indicated that the push for a deal came from Sara’s lawyers. According to this version, the ball is entirely in Sara’s lawyers’ court.
As soon as related evidence from Hefetz is wrapped up, Mandelblit is ready to indict Sara and launch a trial against her within days if Sara does not accept his terms, which are not open to negotiation.
His terms demand her to return a set amount of money from the original NIS 359,000 she is accused of defrauding out of the state, but likely higher than the NIS 50,000 Sara has offered to date, and her acceptance of criminal responsibility.
Sara’s lawyers had hoped to get the plea bargain amount reduced to NIS 50,000 and to suffice with her taking general public responsibility, but without any residual criminal record.
Leaks from the lawyers gave the impression that Mandelblit was considering compromising on some of these issues to avoid a complex contested trial and the embarrassment to the country of trying the prime minister’s wife.
However, the Post has learned that Mandelblit’s only point of compromise is partially reducing from the NIS 359,000, but not down to the NIS 50,000 – and even this reduction is only because, having seen Sara’s defenses, he would reduce the NIS 359,000 even if he were to indict her.
He will not budge on her receiving a criminal record both on principle and because he believes she has even more to lose than the prosecution from the circus of a criminal trial.
The only remaining issue is whether Sara’s lawyers – who may also have internal disagreement on the issue – can convince her to accept the deal that Mandelblit is willing to accept.
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