Former prime minister Ehud Olmert will fight before the Supreme Court on Thursday to stay out of jail pending an appeal of his conviction for bribery and six-year jail sentence in the Holyland trial.
The stakes are high. If he fails, Olmert soon will become the state’s first prime minister to enter prison.
With a successful appeal, he could possibly avoid jail time entirely, or at least avoid incarceration for up to two years, as did former president Moshe Katsav.
Most of those convicted in the Holyland trial, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski also have requested that their jail sentences be put on hold until the appeals over their convictions are decided.
The one exception is Olmert’s former chief of staff Shula Zaken, who entered jail on July 15, and was sentenced to 11 months as part of a plea bargain, while other defendants’ sentences ranged from three-to-seven years.
Although Olmert’s sentence already has been delayed by consent from his May 13 sentencing day, the state has opposed stridently any further significant postponement to the start of Olmert’s, or the other convicted persons’ jail sentences.
The state said it viewed the appeals of Olmert and the others as having a low probability of success since there is massive evidence against them, including multiple damning witnesses.
In that light, because his sentence is a long one and the crime of bribery considered serious, the state said he did not fit any exceptions for a reprieve from jail.
Olmert’s legal brief argues for putting a hold on his sentence, stating that his appeal raises serious and complex legal issues that demand a presumption of success. In view of that real possibility, the brief argued that it would be unjust and harmful to place Olmert in jail prematurely, prior to his appeal being decided.
It also raises the issue that the bribery convictions relate to activities that occurred 10 to 20 years ago, a factor that supports making him an exception to the rule of immediately serving a sentence since there is no chance of the crime continuing.
It does not help Olmert that he is being treated as part of a group where the court likely would need to allow the whole group to go free if it made an exception for him, whereas Katsav stood alone.
Olmert’s case also is not helped by the fact that a virtually identical panel will hear this issue and his Holyland appeal as just heard recordings of him allegedly pushing Zaken to obstruct justice and undermine the state’s cases against him.
Many have criticized his six-year sentence as overly harsh, so the court may keep him out of jail for now to reduce his sentence, even if it does not believe it will reverse his conviction.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last month sent Olmert’s July 2012 acquittal in the Talansky Affair back to the Jerusalem District Court for a retrial, and in a likely third case, Olmert may be indicted in the future for obstruction of justice in the July 2012 Jerusalem District Court trial and the 2014 Tel Aviv Holyland trial.