Former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Talansky retrial, March 30, 2011..
(photo credit: MOR SHAULI)
The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected an appeal by former prime minister Ehud Olmert of his conviction in the Talansky retrial, adding eight months to an existing 19-month sentence that started in February 2016.
The ruling in the Talansky retrial, the affair that brought him down as prime minister in 2008 and paved the way for the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, ends eight long years of Olmert’s five legal battles and sets November 2019 for when he will leave prison.
There is potential for Olmert to get his now total 27-month sentence reduced by a third, but that will be before the Parole Board at a later date.
Besides the Talansky retrial ruling, the Supreme Court issued several other rulings on Wednesday to wrap up Olmert’s legal affairs.
In a narrow 3-2 ruling, it upheld Olmert’s July 2012 acquittal in the Rishon Tours Affair, rejecting the prosecution’s appeal to get a conviction there as well. Justices Salim Joubran, Neal Hendel and Zvi Zilbertal all voted to uphold the acquittal with justices Uzi Vogelman and Isaac Amit voting to reverse the acquittal and convict Olmert.
Generally, the justices in the majority stuck to the Jerusalem District Court’s opinion that while fraud had occurred in double billing reimbursement for Olmert’s flights abroad, there was not quite sufficient proof that Olmert knew about it, as opposed to his staff.
Further, the Supreme Court 5-0 rejected the prosecution’s appeal to give Olmert an additional six-month sentence as punishment for his conviction in the Investment Center Affair for which the Jerusalem District Court sentenced him to community service and a fine in July 2012.
The prosecution had argued that the light sentence was based on his being a first-time offender and that the sum total of his convictions now was grounds for a harsher sentence, but the court did not agree.
In May 2015, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Olmert to eight months in prison following his conviction in the Talansky retrial, one of three affairs he was accused of in the Jerusalem corruption trial.
The Talansky Affair consisted of Olmert illegally receiving, using and concealing at least $153,950 (out of an alleged $600,000) in cash in envelopes from New York businessman Morris Talansky from 1993 and 2002, with the case itself dating back to 2008.
Olmert already became the first prime minister in the state’s history to be locked behind bars after the Supreme Court sentenced him to 18 months (down from six years at the district court level) in prison for bribery in the Holyland real estate corruption trial.
He was sentenced to an additional month of prison as part of a plea bargain in the Shula Zaken tapes saga in which he tried to obstruct the various cases against him along with Zaken, his former top aide of 30 years.
In July 2012, the Jerusalem District Court acquitted Olmert in the original trial of the Talansky Affair and in the Rishon Tours Affair, but convicted him in the more minor Investment Center Affair.
The Rishon Tours Affair allegations had accused Olmert of double-billing nongovernmental organizations for reimbursements for foreign flights, while the Investment Center Affair related to the granting of favors in his capacity as minister of trade, industry and labor to his confidante of former business partner Uri Messer despite a conflict of interest.
The Talansky Affair retrial came out of the state’s appeal of Olmert’s July 2012 acquittal to the Supreme Court, with the Supreme Court sending the case back to the district court for a retrial in summer 2014.
The Supreme Court’s order for a retrial came after shocking recordings of Olmert discussing the original trial with Zaken emerged.
Zaken had refused to testify in the first trial – which excluded a key journal of evidence of hers against Olmert from being presented – and did not let on about the existence of the recordings until the appeal to the Supreme Court.
Most have attributed Olmert’s conviction in the retrial to Zaken’s switching sides and turning against her former boss after one of his lawyers called her corrupt and she appeared headed for a long prison sentence in the Holyland case, absent a deal with the state.
Vogelman and Amit both wrote they would have convicted Olmert at the initial trial, even without the Zaken tapes being in evidence.